Tuesday , July 27 2021

Our way of life can be read in the brain as an open book

Too much alcohol? Regular sports? Socially integrated? The brain says it!

That a person's way of life in any way, both a positive and a negative impact on the whole body, is likely to be the same as any person. As part of a study, a German research team has shown how surprisingly it is that a healthy or unhealthy lifestyle can be in the brain. In addition, our thinking body reveals how strongly we are engaged in our social environment.

Researchers from Forschungszentrum Jülich have discovered how a person's way of life is reflected in the brain. In 248 women and 301 men between the ages of 55 and 85, the team has been able to understand lifestyle based on magnetic resonance and thus provide information on alcohol consumption, smoking status, social integration and physical activity. The study was recently published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications.

According to a recent study, looking into the brain using MRI images reveals how a person lives. (Image: Sergey Nivens / fotolia.com)

Show me your brain and tell you who you are

According to the researchers, this is the most comprehensive job of reading information about a person's lifestyle in the brain. "Only one aspect has been dealt with in previous studies," said Professor Svenja Caspers in a report on the results of the study. "However, our database allows us to look at all four aspects at the same time in each subject and to reveal effects that come only through the interaction of the various factors," says the expert.

Sports and social contacts – a cure for the brain

"Sports, social contact and alcohol have a direct effect on the structure of the brain, according to our findings," adds Nora Bittener. Thus, gray matter is better preserved in some areas of the brain in people with a vibrant social environment than in people with little social contact. Sport also has a lasting positive effect on the brain and leads to a slower loss of volume than people with physical inactivity.

Alcohol and smoking cause lasting damage to the brain

High alcohol consumption, on the other hand, has a detrimental effect on the brain structure. He agrees with the recognizable reduction of the brain and the loss of nerve cells, the researchers said. This is partially responsible in old age for lower mental work and flexibility. Smoking, on the other hand, does not directly affect the structure of the brain but rather modifies the brain functions. "It turned out that the so-called functional connectivity, ie the purposeful cooperation between brain areas, is higher in the sleeping brain of smokers than in non-smokers," explains Bitner.

Smoking makes your brain faster

"We assume this will reduce the cognitive reserve among smokers as the affected regions are already working at full speed when they do not work so there is no buffer at all," says the expert. As a result, smokers have less brain capacity, for example, to compensate for aging.

Man is a flock of animals

"The results of our research show impressively that common claims of a healthy lifestyle are also anatomically and functionally reflected in the brain," Professor Caspers said. Especially surprising for researchers is that an intense or low social life leaves such clear traces in the brain. This leads to further studies, for example, to determine whether group sports have a particularly positive effect on mental work. (Vb)

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