US researchers think they’re getting closer to understanding why certain old people preserve exceptional cognitive abilities on par with those of others 30 years younger.
According to recent research published in The Journal of Neuroscience, these exceptional “super-agers” have bigger nerve cells in the parts of the brain that control memory.
It’s possible that the octogenarians were born that way, or that as they aged, their neurons changed in a different way from those of others.
More research is required, which might uncover novel dementia-fighting strategies.
Researchers are particularly interested in learning how long-term brain health may be impacted by alterations in nerve cells. Do they provide any protection against ageing or are they only a sign of superior mental health?
Finding out what prevents dementia and maintains cognitive function is the main goal of the SuperAging Research Program at Northwestern University in Illinois, which has been underway for more than ten years.
Participants must be above 80, have an excellent memory, be open to undergoing a variety of exams and tests, and consent to donating their brains to research after death.
Researchers have previously deduced, based on prior studies utilising MRI scans, that the brains of so-called super-agers resemble and function more like that of a 50-year-old than an 80-year-old.
The entorhinal cortex, a part of the brain associated with memory, is the subject of the most recent studies, which are based on postmortem exams.
Six superagers, seven “cognitively average” octogenarians, five individuals with early-stage Alzheimer’s, and six younger donors who passed away from illnesses unrelated to the brain were also evaluated. They discovered that the super-agers in this area of the brain had larger, healthier neurons than the rest. They also seem to be less likely to develop the aberrant protein buildups known as tangles that are normally found in the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers.
Though the precise origin of Alzheimer’s disease is not yet known, there are a number of factors that may raise the risk. While some, like age and heredity, cannot be changed, lifestyle choices like quitting smoking, adopting a healthy diet, and engaging in regular exercise might reduce the risk.
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