Super Ager: How does memory maintenance work in old age?

Why some people don't cognitively break down so much
In old age, our memory deteriorates more and more. But this memory loss doesn't have to be an inevitable part of aging, US researchers found. There is a group of adults who still have very sharp memories at 60 or 70 years of age. These people are mentally so fit that their memory performance is comparable to that of 20-year-old students.

The Massachusetts General Hospital scientists found in an investigation that older adults still have memory similar to that of 20-year-old students. The doctors have now published a press release with the results of their study.

With "super agers" there is no age-related shrinkage of the brain
So-called "super agers" can perform memory tests just as well as adolescents who are only a third of their age. Researchers have now used brain scans to discover why these people have such good memories. The regions of the brain involved in learning and remembering do not show any typical age-related shrinkage in these people, the experts say.

Results could help prevent dementia
In addition, the memory test results showed that such “super agers” are thicker in important brain regions. The new study could ultimately help to understand the processes that can lead to dementia, the authors say. Possibilities for avoiding the disease can also be developed in this way. There are several studies on dementia and Alzheimer's. Most recently, these showed, for example, that a new therapy significantly reduces the dangerous plaques in the brain.

Our brains begin to shrink as we age
Our bodies and brains degrade over the course of our lives. There are also some diseases that can change our brains. Another study, for example, examined whether chronic back pain leads to changes in the brain. One thing is clear: when we are over 50 years old, our brain begins to shrink in volume. The performance of our memory will also decrease, the scientists explain. These widespread changes in the brain are actually considered completely normal. However, the results of the new study now show that these changes do not have to be universal, the doctors add.

Experts analyze the cognitive skills of adolescents and the elderly
The research team focused on parts of the brain that are responsible for storing and retrieving memories. The doctors analyzed the cognitive skills of forty older people and over forty adolescents.

The memory of so-called “super agers” is thicker and healthier
The tests found that some of the older people had memory skills that can even compete with the memory performance of the younger volunteers, the authors explain. With these so-called "super-agers", several parts of the memory seemed to be thicker and healthier. These include, for example, the anterior insula, the orbitofrontal cortex and the hippocampus, say the researchers.

Brain shrinkage usually begins with retirement
The new study builds on the findings of scientists from Northwestern University in Illinois. The term “super ager” was also developed from this a while ago, explains the study director Dr. Brad Dickenson. The study had examined people over the age of 80 and compared them to middle-aged people. As a rule, the brain shrank, which usually began with retirement, the authors say.

Can we be turned into "super agers"?
Of course, the main question now is: Can normal people be made a "super agger"? Or do you have to be born that way? Hopefully it is not just genetic factors that influence our later intellectual memory. In the best case, we can also optimize our memory through physical fitness and nutrition, say the scientists. It is already known that certain factors cause our brain to age faster. These include, for example, high cholesterol or smoking.

Avoid cognitive aging problems
The phenomenon of "super aging" is really fascinating. Does the improved memory performance of such people have to do with an increased defense against the aging process? Or do those affected simply have a special and better brain from the beginning of their lives? Understanding why some people have fewer problems with cognitive aging is very important for us humans, the researchers explain. In this way, we can avoid age-related memory problems and possibly also reduce the risk of dementia, the experts add. (as)

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Video: Super-Agers defy time on memory test (October 2021).