Brain chemicals help worms live long and prosper

Serotonin and dopamine accompany life span extension in nematodes on a diet

5:00pm, March 11, 2014

LOW CAL  Unlike normal worms, calorie-restricted C. elegans maintain high levels of the brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine, a new study finds. 

The fabled elixir of life delivers eternal youth free from the bodily indignities that come with age. In reality, worms on a restricted diet also live long, healthy lives, thanks to high levels of certain neural chemicals, a new study suggests.

Unlike their normal counterparts, worms on a diet maintain high levels of serotonin and dopamine as they get older, scientists report in the March 12 Journal of Neuroscience. But calorie restriction wasn’t necessary to get some benefits: Extra serotonin on its own seemed to provide behavioral improvements and a modest life span boost.

It’s too early to say whether the results hold true for other animals, but there are hints that the brain’s serotonin and dopamine machinery goes awry in people as the years advance.

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