THURSDAY, April 19 (HealthDay News) -- Riddled with regret over missed opportunities? You may want to let it go. A new study suggests that being able to set aside regret might make for happier years later in life.
Researchers from the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, in Germany, examined regret in 20-somethings and 60-somethings to see how it affected their emotional health.
"Regret is a powerful mental energy which can be your best friend or worst enemy. You can harness it to improve your future by learning from it, but if you let it grow inside you, it is destructive to both healthy aging and emotional resilience," said Dr. Murali Doraiswamy, a professor and head of the division of biological psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine. He was not involved in the research.
The study, published in the April 19 issue of Science, involved three groups: 21 healthy young adults (in their 20s), 20 depressed older adults and 20 healthy older adults (in their 60s).
The study participants were asked to play game-based tests on a computer. In it, they were invited to open a series of boxes -- some held money pictured as gold, while others revealed a cartoon image of a devil. After opening each box, they were allowed to decide whether they wanted to end the game or keep trying for more money. But if a devil appeared, the game ended and the player lost all the money won up to that point. At the end of each round, all of the boxes opened to show how far a participant could have played without losing.
While they played 80 rounds of the game, the participants also underwent functional MRI (fMRI) brain scans. This allowed the scientists to monitor brain activity between the three groups.
The researchers noted that during the games, when the young adults and the depressed older adults realized they'd missed chances to earn more money earlier o
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