Study: Thinking too much can cause you to die sooner

This Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2003 file photo shows a section of a preserved human brain on display at the Museum of Neuroanatomy at the University at Buffalo, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/David Duprey)
Chelsea Tatham, KVUE

BOSTON (KVUE) — A study from Harvard Medical School researchers found excessive brain activity could lead to a shorter life.

In short, thinking too much or too hard could cause you to die sooner.

Scientists have been for decades studying elements that could lead to longer or shorter lives. One study from June says fast walkers could live longer. Another study from January says being a Floridian could help you live longer.

The Harvard researchers and authors of the study, published in Nature, studied people ranging in age from 60s and 70s to those who lived to be 100 years or older. Even though "the mechanisms that extend lifespan in humans are poorly understood," the study said people who died before they reached their mid-80s had lower levels of a protein called REST in their brains.

This protein, the study says, can tamp down the genes involved in sparking brain activity. Other Harvard researchers found in 2014 that this protein was depleted in the brains of people with Alzheimer's.

For the recent study, researchers used mice and worms to test how REST plays a role in life span. When they increased the worm's version of REST, their brain activity decreased and they lived longer.

The study found mice lacking the protein were also more likely to have busier brains. Some even had seizure-like bursts of brain activity.

The Washington Post spoke with Cynthia Kenyon, vice president of aging research at Calico Labs, who praised the study.

"I think this is overactivity, out-of-control excitation -- it's not good for the brain," she told the Post. "You want the neurons to be active, when and where you want them to be active, not to be just generally firing off."