Brain mysteries of SuperAgers by Amina Shakrullah
A new study has identified an elite group of elderly people who are 80 years old or above. These elderly people are having memory as sharp as the people 20 -30 years younger than them. Emily Rogalski, a researcher of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, identified the elderly people who are still having a terrific memory. He called these people “SuperAger” because they have a brain that is decades younger than those of their fellow brains. The 3-D MRI scans; of the SuperAger participants revealed that one region of the brain was even bigger than the brain of the middle aged participants. Emily Rogalski was overwhelmed by the energy of the cortex of SuperAgers. The cortex is the outer layer of the brain that is crucial for memory, attention and other thinking processes of a person. The cortex of SuperAgers is much thicker than that of their fellow participants. Rather the size of their cortex resembles to the size of middle aged participants. In this study the middle aged participants were 50-65 years old.
According to Rogalski these findings are surprising as the grey matter or brain cells are lost normally during the aging process. She is the main investigator of the research, senior author of the paper published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society and a professor at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s disease Center. According to her SuperAgers are uniquely protected from the deterioration of memory and putrefaction of brain cells that leads to aging. With the identification of these SuperAgers Rogalski is hopeful to discover the secrets of their young brains. Afterwards these discoveries can be applied to the others to protect them from dementia and Alzheimer’s.
By studying the healthy older brains it is possible to infer how SuperAgers have maintained a good memory. The identification of the unique processes in the brain of SuperAgers will ultimately help the patients who are living with Alzheimer’s. By deducing and concluding all the information obtained from the healthy brains, the strategies for the treatment of Alzheimer’s can be improved. By observing the thickness of the cortex the number of neurons can be calculated. But the cortex thickness provides an indirect way of measuring brain’s health, as the thickness of the cortex is directly proportional to the number of neuron cells.
The difference in the SuperAgers’ brain and that of middle aged lies in another region of the brain. In the brain of SuperAgers the interior cingulated region is thicker. Roglaski said thickness of this part of brain is pretty incredible, because this region is crucial for attention. The memory is supported by attention and possibly SuperAgers possess keen attention helpful to support their exceptional memory. Only 10 percent people, who consider that they have an extraordinary memory, were able to fulfill the criteria of the research. To be called as SuperAgers the participants have to score greater in memory screening than the middle aged participants.
According to Rogalski these are special people who are rare. She viewed the MRI scans of 12 SuperAger participants from Chicago and screens their memories along with their cognitive abilities. During the research she also studied 10 normally aging people with an average age of 83.1 years. There were 14 participants from the category of middle aged with an average age of 57.9 years. Now, the SuperAger participants are willing to donate their brains for the research. Rogalski said that by looking into the brains of these SuperAgers the attributes of living persons with the underlying cellular features can be linked.
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