Scientists are beginning to understand why some elderly people keep sharp memories with brains that remain undamaged, even with advanced age. For what reason do some people have such resiliency? Researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine are beginning to unravel the  puzzle by identifying 12 individuals over the age of 80 – they call them “Super Agers.” This group of people did as well on memory tests as a group of participants who were between the ages of 50 and 65. MRI scans were done on both groups, as well as a group of normal 80 year olds. Surprisingly, the brains of the Super Agers measured up to the thickness of the 50 – 65 year old group, rather than the normal 80 year olds! The anterior cingulate, a brain region important for attention was incredibly thicker in the Super Agers. “This finding suggests that “Super Agers” may have a particularly keen sense of attention that helps to support their memory,” said lead author Emily Rogalski, a neuroscientist at Northwestern’s Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center. As her research continues Rogalski plans to study genetic and lifestyle factors that may be important for stopping age-related decline. “There may be more than one way to becoming a Super Ager,” said Rogalski.  Scientific American  January 2013

 

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