Secrets of the' supergrans': Elite group who have the brains of those half their age may hold the key to fighting Alzheimer's Researchers want to know how they are so mentally fit
Daily Mail Reporter
03:35 GMT, 17 August 2012
07:43 GMT, 17 August 2012
'Special': Scientists have identified an elite group of 'super pensioners' with pin-sharp memories and the brains of those half their age who could help in fight against dementia (file picture)
Becoming a little forgetful is considered a normal part of growing older – at least for most people.
But scientists have identified an elite group of ‘super pensioners’ with pin-sharp memories and the brains of those half their age.
Researchers in the US are studying these men and women to find out how they have remained mentally fit, and hope to use the results to develop new ways of tackling dementia.
In an MRI scan, the brains of the elite group – called the ‘superagers’ by scientists – looked like those belonging to middle-aged counterparts, the study published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society found.
Researcher Emily Rogalski sampled a group of ten average over-80s, a group of 14 middle-aged participants, and 12 ‘superagers,’ who scored the same as 50 to 65-year-olds on memory tests.
She found the superagers’ cortex – the outer layer of the brain – was much thicker than in the average 80-year-old, which showed significant thinning.
Another region, the anterior cingulate,
which sends signals in the brain, was actually thicker than in the 50 to
65-year-olds, the study found.
Dr Rogalski, of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, said: ‘These findings are remarkable given the fact that grey matter or brain cell loss is a common part of normal ageing.
'Pin-sharp': In an MRI scan, the brains of the elite group – called the 'superagers' by scientists – looked like those belonging to middle-aged counterparts (file picture)
‘These are a special group of people.
They aren’t growing on trees. By looking at a really healthy older
brain, we can start to deduce how superagers are able to maintain their
‘Many scientists study what’s wrong with the brain, but maybe we can ultimately help Alzheimer’s patients by figuring out what goes right in the brain of superagers.
‘What we learn from these healthy brains may inform our strategies for improving quality of life for the elderly and for combatting Alzheimer’s disease.’