People Who 'Age Gracefully' Actually Have Gigantic Super-Brains

Illustration for article titled People Who 'Age Gracefully' Actually Have Gigantic Super-Brains

Getting older is pretty much the scariest thing. We gain weight, our skin sags, our bones hurt, and our brains get weird. It's totally dumb! I am against it! That's why there are a million billion products (I counted) dedicated to preserving youth, and people do crazy shit like rub butterfly placenta on their faces and traipse around Florida looking for magic fountains. (Florida? Really? Her?) And literally none of it works, because aging is the same as living. And I'd rather keep aging than stop living. So...BRING ME ALL THE WRINKLES.


But then you know those old people who are just feisty and awesome and whose brains don't get weird, they just get wiser? Those magnificent jerks? It's usually some high society gal in enormous sunglasses and a turban, or someone's grandpappy who lives off the grid and eats nothing but tobacco cakes and moonshine made out of worms, and they're still as spry and tack-sharp as the day they were born (except better, because babies don't know shit). Those people are THE BEST. But how does a person become one of those people? Just get born with a super-brain, apparently. Sigh.

Researchers studying brain function in people over 80 have discovered a subset that they call "SuperAgers"—people whose brains appear to be immune from the normal declines in cognitive function and memory:

In the study published Thursday, Rogalski and colleagues found something remarkable in the brain scans of so-called "SuperAgers" (defined as people over 80 with sharp memory). The area of the brain housing the most dense concentration of cells (the outer layer of the brain, called the cortex) was quite thick in "Super Agers"—much thicker than you might see in a typical group of 80-year-olds.

The cortex is important for, among other functions, memory.

Among the 12 "SuperAgers," scanned using MRI, cortical thickness was not significantly different than a control group of 14 people in their 50s and 60s.

The SuperAgers also exhibited remarkable thickness in the anterior cingulate cortex—even thicker than the middle aged control group. The anterior cingulate cortex is integral to attention and focus.

Researchers have no idea how the SuperAgers got their hands on such superior brains, but plan to continue studying their subjects over the long-term—in hopes of someday helping those with degenerative cognitive diseases like Alzheimer's. In the meantime, the rest of us RegularAgers will be over here frantically injecting butt fat into our cortices.

Scientists identify senior 'super' brains [CNN]

Photo credit: yuri_arcurs / Stockfresh.



My paternal grandparents are both in their late 80s, active and sharp as tacks. They have both exercised a ton all their lives and continue to do so. And I think there's research to back up the correlation. Why couldn't it just be genetic :(