|Barry B. Benson, from Dreamworks Bee Movie.|
They zoom around our backyards, flower to flower, in a zigzag formation that appears to have a dizzying effect if you try to follow their flight pattern. Their distinguished colours of black and yellow are easily recognizable. They bumble, they buzz; it’s the honeybee.
Known as the leading producer of honey, these little guys have made it into the news, and are the hot topic of the past week. Why, might you ask? Because, they’ve found a way to reverse the affects of brain aging. Now, we can’t give honeybees all the credit, they didn’t just pick up one day and decide to try this theory out.
Scientists have found that aging of older honeybees’ brains reverses when they take on the task usually done by youngers, a discovery which suggests social intervention should also be considered along with drugs as a way to treat age-related dementia in humans, the Business Standard reports.
Gro Amdam and a team of colleagues at Arizona State University wanted to find out what would happen if they “asked” foraging bees to take care of larval babies again, reports LiveScience. “We knew from previous research that when bees stay in the nest and take care of larvae — the bee babies — they remain mentally competent for as long as we observe them,” Amdam explained, “However, after a period of nursing, bees fly out gathering food and begin aging very quickly.”
The aging honeybee appears to resemble that in humans. Amdam said that after just a few weeks of no longer caring for “newborns”, foraging bees developed worn wings, hairless bodies, and lost brain function. Amdam and the team of researchers decided to remove younger nurse bees from a nest, leaving older bees with a choice: continue foraging or care for the larvae. Although some did continue to search for food, the remainder returned to look after the young, once again.
After 10 days of observation, the team found that about 50 per cent of the older bees that chose to return to nursing, had “significantly improved their ability to learn new things,” the researchers said in a statement.
So how does this relate to humans? After all, honeybees are insects. Well according to this discovery, the researchers found that one of the proteins (that changed) in the brains of bees is also found in humans. The protein, Prx6, is the same one that is known to help protect against dementia, including Alzheimer’s.
“Maybe social interventions — changing how you deal with your surroundings — is something we can do today to help our brains stay younger,” Amdam speculates. “Since the proteins being researched in people are the same proteins bees have, these proteins may be able to spontaneously respond to specific social experiences.”
Change is a hard reality for some individuals. But doing it a little bit at a time, switching up a daily routine, can help to motivate your mind and stimulate your body into adjusting quickly to unforeseen circumstances that may occur in the future. We can’t control everything, and being active and staying connected appears to be a key concept in every day life.
What is something you did when you were younger that you may want to start up again? I might just turn on the sprinkler in the backyard and have a jump around. Just have to watch out for those honeybees…