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Superagers’ secrets to preserving memory with age

Jul 16, 2023

Superagers, individuals who age without significant memory decline, possess unique brain structures and lifestyles. This study reveals that superagers have higher grey matter volume in specific brain regions and slower brain atrophy. Notably, faster movement speed and better mental health differentiate superagers from typical older adults. These findings offer insights into preserving memory function into advanced age.

 

Key takeaways: Brain structure and phenotypic profile of superagers compared with age-matched older adults: a longitudinal analysis from the Vallecas Project

 

  • Superagers’ brain advantage: Superagers are individuals who maintain sharp cognitive abilities, especially memory, even as they age. One of the standout features of their brain is the increased volume of grey matter in certain regions. Grey matter is crucial for processing information in the brain, and having more of it in specific areas might be a reason why superagers retain memory and other cognitive functions better than their peers
  • Slower brain atrophy: As people age, it’s natural for the brain to undergo atrophy, which means it shrinks in size. However, superagers experience this at a notably slower pace. This slower rate of atrophy, especially in the medial temporal lobe (a region linked to memory), might be another factor contributing to their exceptional cognitive longevity
  • Movement speed matters: An intriguing observation from the study is that superagers tend to have a faster movement speed. While the study doesn’t suggest that moving faster directly improves memory, it does hint at a potential relationship between physical agility and brain health. This could mean that maintaining physical fitness and agility might have broader benefits for cognitive health
  • Mental health connection: Mental well-being is not just about feeling good; it has tangible effects on cognitive longevity. The study found that superagers generally have better mental health compared to typical older adults. This underscores the importance of mental health interventions and practices, such as mindfulness, therapy, and social connections, in potentially supporting cognitive health as one ages

 

The unique characteristics of superagers provide a roadmap for understanding how memory function can be preserved into advanced age. By studying the brain structures, lifestyles, and mental health of superagers, researchers can gain insights into potential interventions, practices, or habits that might help more people maintain their memory and cognitive functions as they grow older.

 

Reference: Vallejo-Torres, Laura, et al. “Brain structure and phenotypic profile of superagers compared with age-matched older adults: a longitudinal analysis from the Vallecas Project.” The Lancet Healthy Longevity 4.10 (2023): e656-e667.