Science Times: Cognitive Fountain of Youth

Deterioration of cognitive function is considered to be biologically inevitable but that may not be true for everyone. There exists a population of “superagers” that appear to maintain their youthful cognition as they grow older. The superagers are known to have cognitive functions similar to (or even better than) many 20-year olds. This raises the provocative question: Can cognitive decline at the network and tissue level be prevented or repaired?

A recent study by Sun et al1 examined the neuroanatomic similarities of the superagers to the younger generations. The study administrators recruited 81 participants from the Boston area to examine their neuroanatomic uniqueness. They recruited men and women aged 16 to 35 for the younger group, and 60 to 80 for the older group. All individuals were required to be right-handed, English-speaking participants without any history of neurological or psychiatric disease. All eligible participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and several cognitive assessments. Within the older age group, superagers were identified as having scored at or above average on the Long Delay Free Recall portion of the California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT-LD), which was scaled for younger adults. Also, they needed to be no less than a standard deviation below the average score of the Trail Making Test Part B (TMT-B) for their own age group. Following these assessments, the older group was divided into separate groups: the superagers and the typical older adults.

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