Monday, 19 February 2018

Irritatingly Resilient Old Fogies


'Superagers' are old folk who show remarkably preserved cognitive functions when in their 80s and older (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/feb/19/scientists-unravel-secrets-of-superagers). Such individuals cope well with the stresses of life and are generally more extrovert and less neurotic than the general population. It is only a correlation at the present time, but a US post-mortem study of the brains of 10 superagers has revealed that this organ has a much higher proportion of special Von Economo neurons (also found in the brains of long-lived mammals like the elephant) than their contemporaries (or even much younger people). This is especially so in an area, called the anterior cingulate, that is implicated in attention and working memory. Their cognitive thinning rate is also remarkably reduced. Other studies suggest that superagers can evidence protein plaque in their brains without accompanying dementia and even smoke and drink without obvious negative consequences. It seems that such folk 'got lucky' in genetic roulette.   

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