n. A person over 80 years old who exhibits little cognitive decline.
Our lab used functional magnetic resonance imaging to scan and compare the brains of 17 superagers with those of other people of similar age. We succeeded in identifying a set of brain regions that distinguished the two groups. These regions were thinner for regular agers, a result of age-related atrophy, but in superagers they were indistinguishable from those of young adults, seemingly untouched by the ravages of time.
Don’t we all want to be superagers? These are the folks identified in studies as having exceptionally sharp memories in their 80s and 90s. Researchers are looking at them, trying to figure out what makes them retain bigger brain size, with accompanying attention and thinking abilities greater than most other people their age.
Scott is part of Northwestern University's SuperAging Project that recruits participants 80 and older who have avoided the memory loss and slowdown in mental processing that so often accompanies aging. MRI scans have shown their brains to be more similar to those of people decades younger than to those of their peers.
It is “normal” for old age to be associated with gradual decline in memory and brain mass. However, there are anecdotal reports of individuals who seem immune to age-related memory impairment, but these individuals have not been studied systematically. This study sought to establish that such cognitive SuperAgers exist and to determine if they were also resistant to age-related loss of cortical brain volume. SuperAgers were defined as individuals over age 80 with episodic memory performance at least as good as normative values for 50- to 65-year-olds.