Study: Too Much Brain Activity Linked to Shorter Life Span

Category: Health


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. dictate / ˈdɪk teɪt / (v) – to control or influence something or make a decision over it

    The game directions dictate how each player should participate.

  2. play a role (in something) / pleɪ eɪ roʊl / (idiom) – to be involved in something

    Proper diet plays a role in weight loss.

  3. stimulate / ˈstɪm yəˌleɪt / (v) – to make something grow, develop, or become active

    Certain vitamins stimulate the production of red blood cells.

  4. implication / ˌɪm plɪˈkeɪ ʃən / (n) – a result or effect that may be possible in the future

    The company’s new health policy has long-term implications for the employees’ welfare.

  5. prolong / prəˈlɔŋ / (v) – to make something last or continue longer

    I decided to prolong my vacation; I’ll go to work next week.


Read the text below.

A recent study found that excessive brain activity could lead to a shorter life span.

Scientists at Harvard Medical School analyzed the brain tissues of people who died at 60 to over 100 years old. They examined what made the brains of people who lived longer different from those who died in their 60s or 70s. To do so, they looked at the brains’ gene expression patterns. These patterns dictate which genes are activated or not.

Results showed that participants who had lived longer than 85 years old showed lower levels of brain activity compared to those who died younger. The scientists thus concluded that limiting brain activity in old age is essential to living longer.

Upon investigation, the scientists found that a protein called REST, which suppresses brain activity and regulates genes, was lower in those who died before reaching their mid-80s.

To further understand how REST plays a role in one’s life span, the scientists experimented on worms and mice. When they stimulated the production of REST in the animals’ brains, the subjects lived longer. In contrast, when they blocked the production of REST, the animals had a shorter life span. Because of this, the scientists concluded that decreasing REST triggers brain activity and leads to a shorter life span, while increasing REST has the opposite effect.

These findings suggest that the REST protein could be targeted with drugs to treat age-related brain illnesses, like Alzheimer’s, or to address aging itself.

According to the scientists, the results could also have implications for yoga or meditation, which affects brain activities. These practices can serve as possible treatments for memory loss or as methods to prolong life span.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• How do you think the results of the study can benefit younger people (e.g. those in their 20s or 30s)? Discuss.
• Do you agree that meditation or yoga can possibly make people live longer? Explain.

Discussion B

• In your opinion, should scientists invest more in methods that can prolong people’s life spans? Explain.
• Do you think fighting aging is better than aging naturally? Why or why not?