Are you a ‘superager’?
A rare subset of people, known as ‘superagers’, can grow older without their minds being affected.
These lucky few maintain youthful memories and are able to recall new experiences, events, and situations just as well as younger people, despite being in their 60s, 70s, or 80s.
New research, published in Cerebral Cortex, has captured what the brains of these individuals look like using MRI, suggesting that their brains have resisted the march of time.
While performing a challenging memory task, the brain scans showed that the activity in the heads of superagers appeared identical to those aged, on average, in their mid-20s. Superagers performed better than other participants their age and were on par with much younger adults.
“Using MRI, we found that the structure of superagers’ brains and the connectivity of their neural networks more closely resemble the brains of young adults; superagers had avoided the brain atrophy typically seen in older adults,” said neurologist Alexandra Touroutoglou from Massachusetts General Hospital.
“This is the first time we have images of the function of superagers’ brains as they actively learn and remember new information.”
A recent area of interest
This group of older people with incredible memories have only recently come to the attention of scientists, with their unusual ageing process intriguing many working in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
As we grow older, age-related memory is expected even without suffering from dementia. But, superagers seem to go against this natural process.
Initial research has found superagers may have particular personality traits - such as high levels of extroversion and low levels of neuroticism - that play a role in their preserved memories, while other studies suggest it could simply be a genetic lottery.
That said, researchers are calling for more studies to explore just why some of us have youthful minds well into our older years, which could help stave the memory loss of those with dementia.