SuperAgers Live Longer & Retain Better Memory Function
The Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern’s University Feinberg School of Medicine has been tracking a group of older adults. They’ve found some of the group have remarkably better memory skills than others. To the extent that their memory and recall is as good or better than most people 20 or more years younger.
Northwestern has labeled those individuals “SuperAgers” and has been busy trying to identify characteristics that might explain how they’ve maintained their cognition.
Emily Rogalski, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences has led some of these research efforts. Here’s some of the scientific findings:
· SuperAgers had greater thickness of the anterior cingulate gyrus. Evolutionary theory postulates that the anterior cingulate was one of the later evolutionary developments. The anterior cingulate is involved in decision-making, ethics, emotion, and perhaps self-control.
· SuperAgers have a higher density of von Economo neurons. These specialized neurons are believed to send high-speed messages to other parts of the brain. They are associated with larger brains: along with humans, great apes, whales and elephants have von Eonomo neurons.
In addition to the medical examination that observed the physical brain differences, the Northwestern team administered standard psychological well-being tests to the SuperAgers and a control group. The SuperAgers had greater “high quality” positive social relationships, higher levels of psychological well-being, were more extroverted and less neurotic. Interestingly, and in contrast to some of the other research we’ve published, SuperAgers weren’t necessarily more physically active and didn’t always eat a healthier diet. Link to the research here.
Takeaway: social relationships are one of the most critical factors in maintaining a big healthy brain. Work as hard on keeping close friendships as you do on exercise.
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In Case You Missed It
Last week we reported a study conducted by researchers at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. The goal was to determine if a multi-phase intervention could reduce the risk of heart failure. The participants did yoga poses, pranayama breathing techniques, meditation, stress management and relaxation along with individualized coaching on nutrition and other health topics. After ten sessions over a two-week period, participants had significant improvement. That is, they had measurably reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease in the next decade in a mere two weeks! Link to the research here.
Another research team weighs in on the topic of alcohol consumption and brain health. We will summarize the results of a very large study.
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Always trying to grow bigger brains.
Material from my upcoming book on brain health. Look for it!