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Nerve connections key to healthy brain later in life

May 24, 2012

There are a lot of factors that go into healthy aging, but researchers from the United Kingdom believe they have found why some people stay mentally sharper than others. The study, conducted by the charity Age UK, found that people who have the healthiest nerve connections are generally smarter later in life.

The scientists looked at these nerve connections - sometimes called white matter - to inspect whether their presence had any impact on age-related cognitive decline. They found that there was a significant correlation between the amount of white matter and cognitive function.

"Our results suggest a first plausible way how brain structure differences lead to higher intelligence," said study author Dr. Lars Penke. "The results are exciting for our understanding of human intelligence differences at all ages. They also suggest a clear target for seeking treatment for mental difficulties, be they pathological or age-related."

The researchers added that they are looking into what people can do to ensure these vital brain connections stay healthy later in life. Until then, however, there are several ways older adults can help keep their mind sharp.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, there are a number of foods that may be good for brain health. A diet with dark skinned fruits and vegetables, certain cold water fish and almonds is especially brain friendly.