Tags: elderly | memory | brain | power | super | agers | cognitive

Sharp as a Tack at 80: Here’s Why

Friday, 17 August 2012 12:26 PM

Elderly people who have no decline in memory have certain brain characteristics that differ from others who show more typical age-related memory loss, according to new findings.
Researchers at Northwestern University's Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center identified 12 people aged 80 and older who did as well or better on memory tests as people who were 20 to 30 years younger. Researchers called them "super-agers."
MRI scans revealed that the cerebral cortex of super-agers was thicker than a comparison group of people 80 and older. The cortex is the outer layer of the brain involved in memory, attention and other thinking abilities.
A thinning cortex suggests loss of brain cells, or gray matter, said study author Emily Rogalski, an assistant research professor at Northwestern.
Brain scans also showed that people in their 80s and 90s who exhibited more typical memory declines (though not the marked decline associated with Alzheimer's disease or other thinking impairments, researchers said) had a thinner cortex.
The study is published in the current issue of the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society.
Super-agers come from all walks of life, said Rogalski.
“The super-agers really are a diverse group,” she said. “Not all were wealthy, some exercised five times a week, whil others only ran if they were chased.
“Some individuals smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for 20 years and had a Martini each evening, while others never touched alcohol or cigarettes. So it seems there are different paths to becoming a super-ager.
“There may be some people for whom genetics is very important and they able to get away with being unhealthy and still have super brains.”
The super-agers included one woman who had survived the Holocaust, drank whisky each night, and outlived four husbands. Some were on many medications for various conditions and others were physically healthy.
Unfortunately, there aren't yet any clear answers about what makes a super-ager, Rogalski said.
"Genetics are likely to play a role. And, in general, a healthy lifestyle is supportive of good memory," she said.

© HealthDay

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Elderly people who retain their brain power have certain characteristics, according to a new study.
Friday, 17 August 2012 12:26 PM
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