Long-lived individuals have less excitable neurons.

A team led by genetics researchers from Harvard Medical School has discovered that a protein named REST helps you live longer by damping down activity in the brain.

The finding, published in the journal Nature, shows for the first time how the brain regulates ageing and could herald new treatments for age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

The researchers, led by Bruce Yankner from the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School in Boston, US, examined hundreds of post mortem brain specimens from three separate studies of older people who were free of dementia.

When they compared the brains of people over 85 to those of people who died younger – between 65 and 80 – they found something curious; in those older brains the genes that fire up brain cell activity were turned right down.

Something was dialling down neural activity in the longer-lived bunch and Yankner’s team had a prime suspect.

Read the full story in Cosmos magazine here