Researchers have found that pensioners aged between 80 and 100 who have a positive outlook on life can enjoy better cognitive function that people in their fifties.
Medical experts were stunned when they carried out research on ‘super-agers’, who despite having many symptoms associated with dementia, seemed not to be affected by the condition.
In spite of the fact many of the super-agers had unhealthy habits including smoking and drinking, researchers found what they had in common was a positive attitude in life and an unusually high proportion of the rare brain called called the von Economo neuron.
Professor Emily Rogalski, of the Northwestern University in Chicago, examined the brains of 10 super-agers who underwent examination while they were alive and after they had died. They were part of a group of 74 super-agers followed by the research.
Rogalski said in a paper she is presenting to the American Association for the Advancement of Science she is presenting today: “The findings suggest that super-agers have unique personality profiles.Excellent memory capacity is biologically possible in late life and can be maintained for years even when there is significant neuropathologic burden.'”
Her research found that 71 per cent of super-agers smoked and 83 per cent drank alcohol regularly. However Rogalski estimated that less than five per cent of the population are super-agers.
The von Economo neurons which were present in super-agers are only found in the brains of large mammals and are believed to offer highspeed connections between different regions within the brain. They are known to develop in the late stages of pregnancy and early childhood and could be down to luck.
Rogalski’s study could provide a breakthrough in dementia research. In contrast to much of the dementia research carried out to date, it does not focus on trying to reverse the spread of amyloid and tau, deformed proteins that form lumps in the brains of people with dementia.