Reseachers discover clues behind razor-sharp memory

Researchers are one step closer to figuring out why some of people stay sharp well into our 80s, while others lose cognitive function as they age, Fox News reported Friday. 

Most people start to see a decline in their memory when they reach their 40s and 50s. But a small group of what some scientists are calling “SuperAgers” in their 80s actually score as well or better than those 20 to 30 years younger on memory tests.

Emily Rogalski, assistant research professor at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, wanted to explore what was going on in the brains of these so-called SuperAgers who seemed to retain strong memory skills.

“Instead of trying to understand what is going wrong with the brain, we are attempting to identify factors that contribute to optimal cognitive aging,” Rogalski said.

Rogalski and her team looked at MRI scans of the brains of 12 SuperAgers and compared them with the scans of 10 normally aging 80-year-olds and 12 normally aging adults between the ages of 50 and 65.

The study, published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society found that the region of the brain called the cortex was much thicker in the SuperAgers than it was in their normally aging counterparts — and about the same as normally aging participants 20 to 30 years younger.

The cortex, often referred to as grey matter, is responsible for memory, attention and cognitive skills, and its’ thickness is related to the number of neurons in the brain.

“These findings are remarkable given the fact that grey matter or brain cell loss is a common part of normal aging,” Rogalski said.These findings provide evidence that maintaining a superior memory into old age is biologically possible.”

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