These researchers say negative thoughts can lead to dementia

These researchers say negative thoughts can lead to dementia

What isn’t known is what comes first: negativity or the disease.

Just about everyone has had a bad day where nothing seems to go their way. In fact, if you forgot your keys, missed your grocery pick-up, and had a nasty fight with your partner, you may have felt like the universe was conspiring against you.

Occasional negative thoughts and feelings are a normal part of life. Keeping them in check, however, is important for your emotional wellbeing. It can also be important for the physical health of your brain, research is now showing.

Negative thoughts aren’t just feelings, they can also affect your memory.

Older people with anxiety and depression may be more likely to develop dementia

Scientists have been studying human psychology and mental health for a long while. It’s already been shown that people who are able to change their emotions quickly-go from sad to happy, for example-often benefit from better mental health. On the flip side, those who can’t regulate their emotions very well can be stuck in negative emotional states for a longer time and are thus at a greater risk of suffering from depression.

Older people have been shown to be able to better regulate their emotions than younger ones, and they can find the positive more readily when something bad happens. But sometimes older brains are at a disadvantage.

Recent scientific work by neuroscientists at the University of Geneva (UNIGE) examined how the brain works when witnessing other people suffering psychologically. It was found that some older people have changes in the connectivity in their brain that cause certain negative effects.

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These changes are present between the posterior cingulate cortex and the amygdala and it’s thought they may indicate that aging is going on in different way from normal. Older people who suffer from greater anxiety and negative emotions tended to show this alteration the most.

Because this area of the brain is one that’s the most affected by dementia, scientists now believe there’s a connection between too many negative thoughts and an increased risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease.

What isn’t known is which comes first.

”Is it poor emotional regulation and anxiety that increases the risk of dementia or the other way around? We still don’t know,” commented Sebastian Baez Lugo, a researcher who was a lead author in the study. ”Our hypothesis is that more anxious people would have no or less capacity for emotional distancing. The mechanism of emotional inertia in the context of aging would then be explained by the fact that the brain of these people remains ‘frozen’ in a negative state by relating the suffering of others to their own emotional memories,” Lugo explained.

Meditation may help reroute negative thoughts

The good news is that calming mental exercises like meditation may potentially help stave off those dangerously negative thoughts. Mindfulness is the act of becoming aware of a negative thought and then letting it go without ruminating too much. Meditation is about acknowledging the negativity and then, most importantly, moving on. Meditation can also help calm your mind in general and thereby relieve stress, which is also known to increase your risk of developing dementia.

So, find a quiet space, close your eyes, and drift away for a moment-it will do you some good. If you need tips on starting a meditation practice, check out

photo credits: fizkes/

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