Super-Agers: The New Superheroes of Brain Health?

23 Feb


The New Superheroes of Brain Health?

Who knew being over 80 could be so great? The SuperAging study at Northwestern University in Chicago is exploring how to retain memory as we get older. The attempt to find new drugs in the fight against Alzheimers disease has come up short. One study attempts to look at the brain’s of those over 80 who can retain memory function. What qualities do these individuals posses?

Some of the answers lay deep in the brain. This study was conducted on 1,000 people. A memory test was completed in order to asses these individuals. A very select few pass this test. To read further information on this article I’ll attach the link at the end of my post. A surprising finding was that genetics may not play a part of developing neurologcial disease. A gentleman referenced in this article had a father who died of Alzheimers at 50 years old. He’s 87 years old and credits staying physically, mentally and socially active. He tends to emphasizes social networking as helping to “keep your wits about you.” Which I tend to agree with. Social connection is highly important and I believe very connected to brain function as we age.

Perhaps we must look deeper in to the brain. There we may find the answers we’re looking for. Our brain’s tend to shrink as we age.

Brain scans showed that a superager’s cortex — an outer brain layer critical for memory and other key functions — is much thicker than normal for their age. It looks more like the cortex of healthy 50- and 60-year-olds. But Rogalski’s team found another possible explanation: A superager’s cortex doesn’t shrink as fast. Over 18 months, average 80-somethings experienced more than twice the rate of loss.

Another clue: Deeper in the brain, that attention region is larger in superagers, too. And inside, autopsies showed that brain region was packed with unusual large, spindly neurons — a special and little understood type called von Economo neurons thought to play a role in social processing and awareness.”

Here’s the difference with “SuperAgers”: The cortex that lay outside the brain is responsible for memory and is noticed to be thicker. As well, their cortex has a less of a tendency to shrink. Autopsies conducted demonstrated that their brains were packed with large, spindly neurons responsible for “social processing and awareness.” What does this mean? Social interaction could be a large factor in maintaing these neurons as we age. Could it be that those with active social tendencies have a better chance of avoiding neurological impairment? Especially if this study demonstrates genetics may not play a role in this disease.

Something to keep in mind!


Here’s the link I referenced in my article:

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