Positive Mood May Protect Brain Function

A positive mood through attitude and mindset have a strong influence on how we experience life and perceive our value in society.  By reflecting on the positive and cultivating gratitude for the people, places, and things that bring joy, individuals of all ages can enjoy a better quality of life.  For older adults, new research is finding links between a positive mood and many physical as well as cognitive benefits.

According to a recent National Institute on Aging research report, a positive outlook is associated with lower blood pressure, less heart disease, and healthier blood sugar levels.  More recent research links a positive mental outlook with healthier brain function among older adults. 

A study, published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry in September 2020, suggests an association between mood among seniors and executive brain function.  The ability to plan, process information quickly, make decisions, and maintain focus in older age is reliant on the stability of the brain’s white matter.  Researchers used the Geriatric Depression Scale to measure mood among 716 community-dwelling study participants who demonstrated normal cognitive and neurological function. 

A group of 327 of the overall participants was also given an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) brain scan within six months of the initial mood and neurological assessments.  Researchers found that healthy brain white matter had a positive effect on mood among older participants.  Observational study findings suggest that the mood-brain relationship may function in both directions. A positive mood influences brain health and a healthy brain affects mood.  

Researchers found that mood tends to improve among older adults until people reach about the age of 70, at which point a positive outlook may plateau or begin to reverse.  Changes associated with the brain’s white matter may also lead to problems with thinking, walking, or balance.  Although more study is necessary, the connection between mood, cognition, and overall brain health among older adults could be key in developing new strategies to treat neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric conditions.