Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital have revealed how certain people seem to be resilient to age-related declines in memory, retaining youthful memory performance and preservation of key brain areas linked with memory. The study is published in Journal of Neuroscience on 13 September 2016.
Changes in memory are often viewed as an inescapable part of the ageing process, however, researchers have described a unique group of people called ‘super agers’ who seem to resist the marching of time. In this study, researchers performed memory tests and brain scans on 41 young adults aged between 18-35, and 40 older adults, aged 60-80, of which 17 were classified as super agers. The super agers were found to perform better than both the typical older adults group and the young adults group on certain tests of memory and recall. When the researchers looked at their brains, they saw that while areas of the brain associated with memory were smaller in the typical older adults group, the super agers had retained a more youthful brain anatomy.
Dr Rosa Sancho, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“People known as ‘super agers’ appear to be resilient to age-related changes in memory and have youthful memory performance into old age. By comparing memory performance in super agers to their peers and younger adults, this study has identified key areas of the brain that are associated with a person’s resilience to age-related memory decline. Although it’s not surprising that the brain areas preserved in super agers included those involved in memory, it’s interesting that these are also areas known to be vulnerable to damage in diseases like Alzheimer’s.
“The super ageing phenomenon is intriguing – do super agers exhibit enhanced memory as younger individuals or does it indicate resilience against the ageing process? Understanding why some people appear to enjoy better cognitive ageing than others could provide important clues about how to prevent age-related memory problems and provide insight into potential ways to reduce the risk of dementia.”