Pulse 117: Learn to Be More Optimistic and Live Longer

2 September 2019
Giulio Prisco

Hope Hands with a Flower

A new study links optimism and prolonged life (see below). Researchers have found that individuals with greater optimism are more likely to live longer. Optimism is defined as a general expectation that good things will happen, or believing that the future will be favorable because we can control important outcomes.

"Research on the reason why optimism matters so much remains to be done, but the link between optimism and health is becoming more evident," said senior researcher Fran Grodstein.

"This study has strong public health relevance because it suggests that optimism ... has the potential to extend the human lifespan," added researcher Lewina Lee. "Interestingly, optimism may be modifiable using relatively simple techniques or therapies."

This last point seems especially interesting. In fact, we can’t simply tell people to be more optimistic. Optimism comes natural to some lucky people, but others find it very difficult to put themselves in an optimistic state of mind. The possibility to train people to be more optimistic seems to me especially worth studying.

Optimism promotes exceptional longevity. Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), National Center for PTSD at VA Boston Healthcare System and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, have found that individuals with greater optimism are more likely to live longer and to achieve "exceptional longevity," that is, living to age 85 or older. A study published in PNAS shows that optimistic men and women demonstrate, on average, an 11 to 15 percent longer lifespan, and had 50-70 percent greater odds of reaching 85 years old compared to the least optimistic groups.

Toward scale simulations of detailed neural circuits. By integrating data from two recent datasets (the Allen Mouse Brain Connectivity Atlas and Janelia MouseLight), which complement each other in terms of entirety of the neocortex and the cellular resolution provided, Blue Brain researchers at EPFL have identified some of the key rules that dictate which individual neurons can form connections over large distances within the neocortex. In a paper published in Nature Communications, the Blue Brain researchers describe how they were able to generate statistical instances of the micro-connectome of 10 million neurons, a model spanning five orders of magnitude and containing 88 billion synaptic connections that will serve as the basis of the world’s largest-scale simulations of detailed neural circuits.

Robotic thread could one day permit treating brain aneurysms and stroke. MIT engineers have developed a magnetically steerable, thread-like robot that can actively glide through the brain. According to the engineers, the new robotic thread, described in a research paper published in Science Robotics, could one day allow doctors to remotely guide the robot through a patient's brain vessels to quickly treat blockages and lesions, such as those that occur in aneurysms and stroke. The engineers plan to test the new robotic thread in vivo in the next step.

Promising clinical trial of cancer therapy based on gold nanoparticles. A cancer therapy based on gold nanoparticles, invented by scientists at Rice University, has crossed a milestone in clinical trials. According to the scientists, this is a major development in a decades-long quest to develop a treatment that destroys tumors without the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy, invasive surgery and radiation. A study published in PNAS reports that 13 of the first 15 prostate cancer patients treated in a clinical trial of the therapy (known as AuroLase®) showed no detectable signs of cancer a year after treatment.

Exercise is good for the aging brain. University of Iowa researchers have found that a single bout of exercise improves cognitive functions and working memory in some older people. In experiments that included physical activity, brain scans, and working memory tests, described in a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the researchers also found that participants experienced the same cognitive benefits and improved memory from a single exercise session as they did from longer, regular exercise. In related news, scientists at University of Birmingham argue that it’s never too late to start exercising.

MicroRNA prevents heart muscle loss in laboratory mice. Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University researchers have shown evidence that heart muscle can continue to die even after restoring blood following a heart attack, and one way to help it live is by boosting levels of a tiny RNA that helped the heart form. In a study published in Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology, the scientists report that they can reduce heart muscle death 40 percent in laboratory mice by giving them a synthetic version of the microRNA miR322.

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