New research suggests middle-aged men may suffer from ill-fated or unfortunate events in a way that others don’t. According to this neuro study “Effects of lesions in different nuclei of the amygdala on conditioned taste aversion,” serious conflicts and crises—such as divorce, death of a loved one, or financial hardship—appear to result in accelerated brain aging in addition to accelerated physical aging among this subgroup.

More specifically, the team of researchers from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine used magnetic resonance imaging to determine that one FLE (negative fateful life event) was associated with a 0.37 year increase in predicted brain age difference (PBAD) among middle-aged men. Simply put, just one bad event can make the brain appear one-third of a year older than the person’s actual age.

To reach these findings, researchers recruited 359 study subjects from the Vietnam Era Twin Study of Aging (VETSA), all of whom were male and between the ages of 57 and 66 years. The participants first read through a list of life-altering events and marked which events they’d experienced over the past two years—these were later compared to a similar measure completed by the subjects five years earlier when they first joined VETSA. Then, they underwent MRI exams as well as other physical and psychological evaluations.

The MRIs allowed the researchers to analyze physiological features of the brain including the outer layer of the brain, which plays an important role in consciousness, attention, memory, and other cognitive functions. The measurements of such features were then evaluated to accurately predict brain age and it enabled the researchers to make these significant findings. Sean Hatton, PhD, first author of the study and postdoctoral scholar, told NeuroscienceNews that “having more midlife FLE’s, particularly relating to divorce/separation or a family death, was associated with advanced predicted brain aging.”

Hatton went on to say that chronic stress has been known to contribute to premature aging—but the present study provides evidence for a potential link between this molecular aging and brain changes, which occur as a result of major stress. However, there is a need for further experimentation with a broader demographic, as this study narrowed in on middle-aged, white males; therefore, it’s unclear if females as well as other ethnicities experience the same brain changes.

UCSD (2018, April 6). Major Midlife Adverse Events Accelerates Male Brain Aging. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved April 6, 2018 from

Hatton, S. N., Franz, C. E., Elman, J. A., Panizzon, et al. (2018, April). Negative fateful life events in midlife and advanced predicted brain aging. Neurobiology of Aging. Retrieved April 10, 2018 from