Poor emotional regulation or inability to change emotions quickly is beneficial for health. Those who are unable to do so are at risk of depression. A new study by Neurosciences department of University of Geneva has tried to find out how the brain switches from one emotion to another. How does it return to initial state?
‘‘Older people generally show a different pattern of brain activity and connectivity from younger people,’’ says Sebastian Baez Lugo, a researcher in Patrik Vuilleumier’s laboratory and the first author of this work. ‘‘This is particularly noticeable in the level of activation of the default mode network, a brain network that is highly activated in resting state. Its activity is frequently disrupted by depression or anxiety, suggesting that it is involved in the regulation of emotions. In the older adults, part of this network, the posterior cingulate cortex, which processes autobiographical memory, shows an increase in its connections with the amygdala, which processes important emotional stimuli. These connections are stronger in subjects with high anxiety scores, with rumination, or with negative thoughts.’’
However, older people tend to regulate their emotions better than younger people, and focus more easily on positive details, even during a negative event. But changes in connectivity between the posterior cingulate cortex and the amygdala could indicate a deviation from the normal ageing phenomenon, accentuated in people who show more anxiety, rumination and negative emotions. The posterior cingulate cortex is one of the regions most affected by dementia, suggesting that the presence of these symptoms could increase the risk of neurodegenerative disease.
The team of researchers are now conducting an 18- month interventional study on how meditation and learning a foreign language can help ward off dementia and help in developing mindfulness for better mental health in older age.
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