‘Shortening telomeres linked to wandering minds’

Washington, Nov 19: A mind that strays from the present or the one that is solidly rooted in the here and now, could be linked to the length of telomeres − the DNA caps that protect the ends of chromosomes, according to an American research.

Telomeres prevent chromosomes from deteriorating or fusing with neighbouring chromosomes. They are also emerging as bio−marker for cellular and general bodily ageing.

The findings suggest that those who reported more mind wandering had shorter telomeres, while those who reported greater presence in the moment, had longer telomeres, the journal Clinical Psychological Science reports.

“Our attentional state where our thoughts rest at any moment turns out to be a fascinating window into our well−being. It may be affected by our emotional state as well as shape our emotional state,” said Elissa Epel, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), who led the study.

“In our healthy sample, people who report being more engaged in their current activities tend to have longer telomeres,” added Epel, according to an UCSF statement.

A preliminary study by the university assessed telomere length, along with the tendency to live in the present versus the tendency to wander, involving 239 healthy, midlife women aged between 50 and 65 years.

Telomeres typically shorten with age and in response to psychological and physiological stressors. A discovery by UCSF scientists shows that telomere shortness predicts early disease and mortality.

Previous studies have found that they are tied with increased activity of an enzyme known as telomerase, which is responsible for protecting and in some cases, replenishing telomeres.

Epel, along with UCSF psychologist Eli Puterman and colleagues are developing a series of classes to promote more mindful presence, to see if this intervention protects telomere maintenance or even lengthens telomeres.

IANS