The cerebellum ages more slowly than other body and brain areas

This 2015 UCLA human study used the epigenetic clock methodology to find:

“All brain regions have similar DNAm ages in subjects younger than 80, but brain region becomes an increasingly significant determinant of age acceleration in older subjects. The cerebellum has a lower epigenetic age than other brain regions in older subjects.

To study age acceleration effects in non-brain tissues as well, we profiled a total of 30 tissues of a 112 year old woman. The cerebellum exhibited the lowest (negative) age acceleration effect compared to the remaining 29 other regions. In contrast, bone, bone marrow, and blood exhibit relatively older DNAm ages.”

Limitations included:

  • “While the epigenetic age of blood has been shown to relate to biological age, the same cannot yet be said about brain tissue.
  • Cellular heterogeneity may confound these results since the cerebellum involves distinct cell types.
  • This cross-sectional analysis does not lend itself for dissecting cause and effect relationships.”

The study didn’t determine why the cerebellum was relatively younger. Some hypotheses were:

  • “Our findings suggest that cerebellar DNA is epigenetically more stable and requires less ‘maintenance work.’
  • The cerebellum has a lower metabolic rate than cortex.
  • It has far fewer mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) deletions than cortex especially in older subjects, and it accumulates less oxidative damage to both mtDNA and nuclear DNA than does cortex.” “The cerebellum ages slowly according to the epigenetic clock”


Observing pain in others had long-lasting brain effects

This 2016 Israeli human study used whole-head magnetoencephalography (MEG) to study pain perception in military veterans:

Our findings demonstrate alterations in pain perception following extreme pain exposure, chart the sequence from automatic to evaluative pain processing, and emphasize the importance of considering past experiences in studying the neural response to others’ states.

Differences in brain activation to ‘pain’ and ‘no pain’ in the PCC [posterior cingulate cortex] emerged only among controls. This suggests that prior exposure to extreme pain alters the typical brain response to pain by blurring the distinction between painful and otherwise identical but nonpainful stimuli, and that this blurring of the ‘pain effect’ stems from increased responses to ‘no pain’ rather than from attenuated response to pain.”

Limitations included:

  • “The pain-exposed participants showed posttraumatic symptoms, which may also be related to the observed alterations in the brain response to pain.
  • We did not include pain threshold measurements. However, the participants’ sensitivity to experienced pain may have had an effect on the processing of observed pain.
  • The regions of interest for the examination of pain processing in the pain-exposed group were defined on the basis of the results identified in the control group.
  • We did not detect pain-related activations in additional regions typically associated with pain perception, such as the anterior insula and ACC. This may be related to differences between the MEG and fMRI neuroimaging approaches.”

The subjects self-administered oxytocin or placebo per the study’s design. However:

“We chose to focus on the placebo condition and to test group differences at baseline only, in light of the recent criticism on underpowered oxytocin administration studies, and thus all following analyses are reported for the placebo condition.”

A few questions:

  1. If observing others’ pain caused “increased responses to ‘no pain’,” wouldn’t the same effect or more be expected from experiencing one’s own pain?
  2. If there’s evidence for item 1, then why aren’t “increased responses to ‘no pain'” of affected people overtly evident in everyday life?
  3. If item 2 is often observed, then what are the neurobiological consequences for affected people’s suppression of “increased responses to ‘no pain’?”
  4. Along with the effects of item 3, what may be behavioral, emotional, and other evidence of this suppressed pain effect?
  5. What would it take for affected people to regain a normal processing of others’ “‘pain’ and ‘no pain’?” “Prior exposure to extreme pain alters neural response to pain in others” Thanks to one of the authors, Ruth Feldman, for providing the full study

Epigenetic contributions to hypertension

This 2016 Australian review subject was epigenetic contributions to hypertension:

“Hypertension (HT) affects more than 1 billion people globally and is a major risk factor for stroke, chronic kidney disease, and myocardial infarction.

Essential hypertension (EH) is a complex, polygenic condition with no single causative agent. There is increasing evidence that epigenetic modifications are as important as genetic predisposition in the development of EH.

Many epigenetic studies are, however, limited by the fact that only blood is studied rather than the effector tissues. The utility of blood methylation status in epigenetic research is yet to be determined. Furthermore, the polygenic complexity of HT and the limited knowledge on some of the non-coding RNAs makes it more challenging to decipher the exact mechanisms involved.”

The review had sections for hypertension studies on DNA methylation, histone modification, and microRNA and other non-coding RNA types. Here’s a sample of the findings:

“HSD11B2-mediated degradation of cortisol to cortisone is disrupted when the promoter region of the HSD11B2 gene is hypermethylated. The resulting imbalance in the active metabolites of cortisol and cortisone, tetrahydrocortisol, and tetrahydocortisone, respectively, promotes the onset of HT.

Histone modification affecting arterial pressure levels has been documented in a variety of human and animal tissues, including vascular smooth muscle. Vascular oxidative stress can contribute to endothelial dysfunction—a hallmark of HT—and the development of HT.

Two miRNAs (has-miR-181a and has-miR-663) with the ability to bind to the 3′ UTR of renin mRNA were found to be under-expressed in EH. These miRNAs were able to regulate the expression of a reporter gene and renin-mRNA itself, which explains over-expression of renin mRNA seen in EH kidney.”

The publisher, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, makes ALL of its articles open access. Another of its requirements is:

“The full experimental details must be provided so that the results can be reproduced.”

There also aren’t artificial limitations on either the length of the study or the number of supplementary files. “Epigenetic Modifications in Essential Hypertension”