Scientists are gaining insights into the cognitive abilities of "SuperAgers" and why their memories are more resilient against the ravages of time than are other older people's. ABC News reports today on new research:
The SuperAgers were picked to be studied because all were over age 80 and had the memory capability of a person 20 to 30 years their junior according to the study recently published in the Journal of Neurology.
To understand how SuperAgers managed to keep their mental ability intact, researchers performed a battery of tests on them, including MRI scans on 12 SuperAgers and post-mortem studies on five other SuperAgers to understand the make-up of their brains.
"The brains of the SuperAgers are either wired differently or have structural differences when compared to normal individuals of the same age," Changiz Geula, a study senior author and a research professor at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center, said in a prepared statement. "It may be one factor, such as expression of a specific gene, or a combination of factors that offers protection."
The article goes on to explain that participants' unusual brain signature had three common components in comparison to normal people of similar ages: notably fewer tangles (a primary marker of Alzheimer's disease), a thicker region of the cortex and a significant supply of a neuron called von Economo, which is linked to higher social intelligence.