Want to age successfully? Focus on the positive

Washington: Ageing is something that bothers most of us. Nothing is more frightening than waking up with more wrinkles and fine lines all over our face. But the truth is we all will age at some point of time.

Now, a new German study has shed light into how the brain can help us age successfully.

Ageing successfully has been linked with the ‘positivity effect’, a biased tendency towards and preference for positive, emotionally gratifying experiences.

Now, Dr. Stefanie Brassen and her colleagues explain how and when this effect works in the brain.

They studied this effect by using neuroimaging to evaluate brain engagement in young and old adults while they performed a specialized cognitive task that included supposedly irrelevant pictures of either neutral, happy, sad or fearful faces.

During parts of the task when they didn``t have to pay as much attention, the elderly subjects were significantly more distracted by the happy faces.

When this occurred, they had increased engagement in the part of the brain that helps control emotions and this stronger signal in the brain was correlated with those who showed the greatest emotional stability.

“Integrating our findings with the assumptions of life span theories we suggest that motivational goal-shifting in healthy aging leads to a self-regulated engagement in positive emotions even when this is not required by the setting," said author Dr. Stefanie Brassen.

“In addition, our finding of a relationship between rostral anterior cingulate cortex activity and emotional stability further strengthens the hypothesis that this increased emotional control in aging enhances emotional well being,” she said.

The study is published in Biological Psychiatry.


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