It almost sounds like some hero out of a comic book, but scientists are now looking into the brains of “SuperAgers”, or people over the age of 80 who have the cognitive and mental acuity of a middle-aged person, thirty years their junior, according to a recent study from the Journal of Neurology.
By finding out what makes these people tick, scientists might help to unlock the cause of dementia and Alzheimer’s in many of our aging population.
A “SuperAger” is a person, older than 80, who easily functions in social settings and has outstanding memory skills. These people are actually resistant to dementia and Alzheimer’s. Right now, this is a very low number of people and only about 10% of the people who think they may be a “SuperAger” are right for the studies which are being conducted at Northwestern University.
The part of the brain scientists are looking at is called the anterior cingulate cortex, or ACC. It is a collar-shaped part of the brain found deep within the frontal lobes and is responsible for error detection, anticipation of tasks, attention, motivation and emotional responses.
It appears that people considered to be “SuperAgers” have a thicker ACC than most of their similarly-aged counterparts. The thicker the cortex could mean better memory function. This cortex normally becomes thinner as we age.
Another common trait amongst “SuperAgers” is a lack of protein tangles within the brain. “These tangles that form inside the cells are fewer in SuperAgers than in both normal elderly and these individuals with mild cognitive impairment,” said Changiz Geula, a study senior author and a research professor at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center. It is thought that the tangles may be choking off and shrinking cells within the ACC and this may be the cause of the thinning cortex.
If you are interested in finding out more about SuperAgers or the effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, contact the Kabb Law Firm at 216.991.KABB (5222).