Friday, August 17, 2012

Study shows that some 'SuperAgers' can keep the aging process at bay

Cambridge Journals Country of Issue: United States - August 17, 2012 - A group of 80-year-olds tested for brain and memory function have been found to possess the abilities of people decades younger.

Researchers who studied the group have dubbed them ‘SuperAgers’ because of their brain’s ability to keep the aging process at bay. The research team say their findings prove that loss of our little grey cells is not necessarily an unavoidable part of aging. The results may have implications for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

The study is reported in the current issue of the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, published by Cambridge Journals on behalf of the International Neuropsychological Society.

Carried out in the US by a team from Northwestern University, Chicago, the project compared the brain thickness and memory ability of a group of 12 people in their early eighties with a separate group of their peers and with a group of 50-65 year olds.

The group of twelve SuperAgers were chosen from people who were still living active, healthy lives with no history of neurological or psychiatric problems. MRI scans of brain thickness were combined with memory tests to reveal which brains out of all of those studied were performing best.

In a finding the researchers describe as ‘remarkable’, the SuperAgers emerged from the tests with brain power akin to those in the 50-65 age range and significantly better than their peers in their eighties.

The studies also showed that the brains of the SuperAgers had not atrophied (i.e. the outer layer had not thinned) as they had in their peers and that their brain thickness was actually better than those in the 50-65 age range. The SuperAger brain was found to be of superior thickness in one of the frontal regions of the brain thought to control decision-making, empathy and emotion.

The research team say the SuperAgers had not had unusually good memories when younger and their level of education was also average with only four of the twelve having obtained a college degree.

It is not known if they were born with a brain that is thicker than the norm or whether their brains have simply resisted the ‘normal’ atrophying process. Researcher Emily Rogalski said the study shows that the definition of ‘normal’ aging will have to change:

“These findings are remarkable given the assumption that losing our grey matter is a common part of normal aging. Our SuperAgers prove that keeping your memory and your brain’s thickness is a biological possibility. Now we just have to work out why it happens in some people and not others. Future studies of this phenomenon could help us discover how to prevent age-related memory loss and reduction in brain function and even lead to strategies for avoiding Alzheimer’s.”

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About the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society (JINS)

JINS is the official journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, an organization of over 3,700 international members from a variety of disciplines. The editorial board is comprised of internationally-renowned experts with a broad range of interests. JINS publishes empirically-based articles covering all areas of neuropsychology and the interface of neuropsychology with other areas, such as cognitive neuroscience.

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About the International Neuropsychological Society

The International Neuropsychological Society was founded in 1967 and is dedicated to bringing together scientists from all scientific disciplines that contribute to the understanding of the brain. The Society currently has more than 3,700 members throughout the world.

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About Cambridge Journals

Cambridge University Press publishes over 300 peer-reviewed journals, including journals published on behalf of over 100 learned societies, which form the latest in research and discovery across a range of topics. Many of these journals are the leading academic publications in their fields and together they form one of the most valuable and comprehensive collections of research available today.

Across the world, Cambridge Journals are available in print and online – keeping scientists, researchers, and scholars abreast of crucial developments in research.

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