Skip to main content

Researchers hope SuperAgers hold key to healthy brain

August 20, 2012

Maintaining brain health is the cornerstone of healthy aging for many seniors, and researchers recently shed light on some older adults who have taken that to the next level. A new study looks at so-called SuperAgers, seniors who are as mentally sharp as people decades younger than them, and offers some insight into why that might be.

A team of researchers led by Emily Rogalski looked at the brains of SuperAgers 80 and older and found that their cortex, the area of the brain responsible for memory, attention and thinking abilities, was significantly thicker than other adults their age. Instead, it was more similar to that of a 50- to 65-year-old brain.

In analyzing the brains of these seniors, Rogalski hopes she will be able to uncover potential methods to maintain brain health in other older adults. Specifically, the findings may offer treatments for Alzheimer's disease and other cognitive conditions.

"Many scientists study what's wrong with the brain, but maybe we can ultimately help Alzheimer's patients by figuring out what goes right in the brain of SuperAgers," she said. "What we learn from these healthy brains may inform our strategies for improving quality of life for the elderly and for combating Alzheimer's disease."

While a treatment derived from her findings may be a long way off, there are certain steps seniors can take to reduce their chances of developing Alzheimer's. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and nuts offers some of the greatest benefits, WebMD reports.