In a recent anti-aging study, scientists at Arizona State University have found that honey bees effectively reverse brain aging when they are given responsibilities that are normally reserved for the younger bees. This solidifies their beliefs that human age-related dementia can be delayed through social interventions. Below, learn how mental health and wellness in humans can be improved through lessons learned from honey bees.
The particular honey bee anti-aging study demonstrates how the older, foraging bees are tricked into being active within the nest, thereby altering their molecular brain structure. Previous studies showed that older bees remain in the nest to care for the larvae, thereby remaining mentally competent for the duration of that time. After the nursing period ends, and the older bees fly out to gather food, they enter a period of rapid aging. Only two weeks into foraging, the bees, upon observation, their wings are worn, their bodies are hairless, and they have lost brain function.
Therefore, the study went on to reintroduce these aged bees into the nest, to care for the baby bees. While some continued to forage for food, others remained in the nest, providing essential care to the babies. Within 10 days, more than half of those bees showed significant improvement, being able to learn new things. In observing these bees, the team of researchers also saw a change in the proteins in their brains, with two proteins especially changed. In particular, Prx6, also found in humans, was altered, and this is a protein that protects against dementia and Alzheimer’s. The chaperone protein was also discovered, which helps to protect the other proteins from damage when there is exposure to cell-level stress.
This discovery has piqued researchers’ interest, in that they may be able (or are aiming to) create a drug that will maintain brain function. Certainly, this could take a few decades to do, but they are certainly on to something. For instance, even though these proteins are the same in both bees and people, further studies are required to be conducted on mammals, for one. However, in the meantime, it definitely shows us how social interventions can be used by all to help brains remain youthful and more functional. Introduce new things to yourself or to a loved one, like a new hobby or a new responsibility that will encourage a person to get involved and use their brains.
The bottom line is that this study is indicative of improved mental health and shows much promise. Seniors need to take an active role in life in order to feel like they are a part of life, and that involves keeping them active, introducing challenges, and keeping them social. If they feel as though they have something to give back, the likelihood of dementia or Alzheimer’s may be delayed at minimum. While the studies performed on the honey bees may be premature, they are definitely something for researchers and people in general to get excited about. Any way that we can fend off mental health disorders is a positive move in the right direction.