Old and Wise

The take home may be thatspecific prenatal conditions may affect oxygen stress resistance and theresultant brain wiring.  Certainly it hasbeen long observed that the very intelligent are better able to age gracefully intodeep old age.  Or there are at least morewho make it there.

Brain wiring is something that isstill poorly understood, but must soon come under intense study.  There is good reason to have every childoptimally prepared.  The societalbenefits are also obvious.  If all canperform to a high standard, talent separation becomes unnecessary.

It also means that in a modernsociety that all develop youthful skills supportive of the physical needs ofsociety as a matter of course.  I hadthought that wise anyway, but this makes it inevitable.  It should quickly become policy.

Of course making wise lifechoices does improve with rising intelligence and that must also be afactor.  Smokers and drinkers mostly failto make it.

Old and Wise: Why Do Smarter People Live Longer?

Bees help to explain the link between intelligence and long life

By Kirsten Traynor  | December13, 2010 | 13

Intelligent people live longer—the correlation is as strong as thatbetween smoking and premature death. But the reason is not fully understood. Beyondsimply making wiser choices in life, these people also may have biology workingin their favor. Now research in honeybees offers evidence that learning abilityis indeed linked with a general capacity to withstand one of the rigors ofaging—namely, oxidative stress.

Ian Deary, a psychologist at the University of Edinburgh, has proposedthe term “system integrity” for the possible biological link betweenintelligence and long life: in his conception, a well-wired system not onlyperforms better on mental tests but is less susceptible to environmentalonslaughts. Gro Amdam of Arizona State Universityand the Norwegian University of LifeSciences was intrigued by the idea and last year devised a way to test it inbees.

Honeybees are frequently used as a neurobiological model forlearning—they can be trained, using positive or negative reinforcement, toretain information. In Amdam’s experiment, individual bees were strapped into astraw, where they learned to associate an odor with a food reward in a classicPavlovian conditioning scenario. After only one or two trials, many beeslearned to stick out their tonguelike proboscis in anticipation of a sugarydroplet. Some bees took a little longer—as in humans, there are quick learnersand slower ones.

To simulate aging, the same bees were then placed in plastic tubes andexposed to a high-oxygen environment, a metabolic stress test. All animals needoxygen to breathe, but an overload drives cells to churn out damaging freeradicals that break down cell membranes and cause cells to commit suicide,triggering premature aging. The better learners tended to live longer duringthis ordeal—an average of 58.8 hours, as opposed to the poor learners’ averageof 54.6—suggesting they have a more robust antioxidant system, which mops updestructive free radicals.

Amdam suspects that general stress resilience may explain why the quicklearners lived longer. In the learning trials, the bees that could stand thestress of being in the straw were able to learn faster that the odor signaled atreat, and the same resilience allowed these bees to better withstand thestress of being in a high-oxygen environment.

For people, too, Amdam hypothesizes that the ability to handle stresscould be a component of system integrity; better overall stress resilience maycontribute to both higher IQ scores and longer life. And if scientists canunravel what underlies these biological differences, they might be able toalleviate inborn disparities. “There is an opportunity to help everyone livelonger,” Amdam says.

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