Being a Grandparent or Stay at Home Mom May Improve Your Mind
Contrary to what some mothers may believe, when it comes to improving memory and slowing down the aging process, scientists have discovered that leaving the workforce and careing for the young, actually makes it all better. Att least if you are a honeybee.
Research using honeybees has shown that when bees stay in the nest and take care of the larvae (baby bees) they remain mentally competent. However, once the bees fly out of the nest to gather food they age very quickly. This can be seen in their worn wings, hairless bodies, and loss of brain function after just two weeks. Brain function was measured by their ability to learn new tasks. The researchers began this new study, questioning what would happen to the bees if they went back to the nest to take care of the larvae once again.
The researchers found that honey bees reverse brain aging when they take on responsibilities in the nest that are normally handled by the younger bees. The researchers tricked the older bees into performing social tasks within the nest. This effectively changed the molecular structure of their brain.
The researchers removed all of the bees from the nest with the exception of the larvae and queen bees. When the older bees returned to the nest, activity was diminished. Some of the older bees left to gather food again while others stayed in the nest to take care of the larvae. After 10 days, about half of the bees taking care of the larvae had an increased ability to learn new things. The researchers also found that there was a change in the proteins of the brain when they stayed back at the nest to take care of the larvae. They found Prx6 which is a protein that is also found in humans which can help to protect the brain against dementia. They also found what they referred to as a “chaperone” protein that protects other proteins from being damaged when the brain or other tissue is exposed to stress at the cellular level.
A study like this once would be difficult to reproduce in the human population because you would be interfering with the social lives of the participants. This could possibly have a detrimental effect on their brain health. However, this study does show promise as the proteins in the human brain are the same as the ones that were found in the bee’s brain. It provides some evidence that maintaining social relationships may have a positive effect on memory and may provide protection from age-related dementia and may reduce the chance of memory loss and forgetfulness.