You Too Can Be a SuperAger!

SuperAgers have better recall than others 20 years younger or more.

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. 

Happy Brain

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.

Next Time

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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