Thursday, January 12, 2017
Research on Ageing
Some loss of memory is often considered an inevitable part of aging, but new research reveals how some people appear to escape that fate. A study by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators examines a remarkable group of older adults whose memory performance is equivalent to that of younger individuals and finds that certain key areas of their brains resemble those of young people.
The study published in The Journal of Neuroscience is the first step in a research program aimed at understanding how some older adults retain youthful thinking abilities and the brain circuits that support those abilities. The program is led by Bradford Dickerson, MD, director of the Frontotemporal Disorders Unit in the MGH Department of Neurology and Lisa Feldman Barrett, PhD, MGH Department of Psychiatry, who are co-senior authors of the new study.
While most older adults experience a gradual decline in memory ability, some researchers have described older adults – sometimes called “super agers” – with unusually resilient memories. For the current study, the MGH team enrolled 40 adults ages 60 to 80 – 17 of whom performed as well as adults four to five decades younger on memory tests, and 23 with normal results for their age group – and 41 young adults ages 18 to 35.
"Previous research on super aging has compared people over age 85 to those who are middle aged. Our study is exciting because we focused on people around or just after typical retirement age - mostly in their 60s and 70s - and investigated those who could remember as well as people in their 20s."
Imaging studies revealed that these super agers had brains with youthful characteristics. While the cortex - the outermost sheet of brain cells that is critical for many thinking abilities - and other parts of the brain typically shrink with aging, in the brains of super-agers a number of those regions were comparable in size to those of young adults.
Critically, the researchers showed not only that super-agers had no shrinkage in these brain networks but also that the size of these regions was correlated with memory ability. One of the strongest correlations between brain size and memory was found in an area at the intersection of the salience and default mode networks. Previous research has shown that this region - the para-midcingulate cortex - is an important hub that allows different brain networks to communicate efficiently.
This blog was written from information received from David A. Kekich and the Maximum, Life Foundation www.MaxLife.org