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'Super' aged brains reveal first secrets of sharp memory in old age
Date:11/16/2008

heir age, Geula noted.

Geula will present his findings Sunday, November 16, at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

The number of plaques in the brains of the super aged was similar to that in the brains of the normally aging group. The plaque is an aggregation of protein called amyloid that becomes deposited outside the brain cell and disrupts communication between neurons. Like tangles, plaques also are found in modest numbers in the brains of aged individuals and show a dramatic increase in number in Alzheimer's disease.

Geula said the lower number of tangles in the super aged appears to be the critical difference in maintaining memory skills.

Some of the super aged in the study performed memory tasks at the level of people who were about 50 years old. For example, after being told a story, they were able to remember it immediately after and still accurately recall its details 30 minutes later. They also remembered a list of 15 words and recalled these words equally well when tested after 30 minutes.

Geula said new research will focus on what makes cells in super aged brains more resistant to tangle formation. "We want to see what protects the brains of these individuals against the ravages that cause memory loss," he said. " Understanding the specific genetic and molecular characteristics of the brains that makes them resistant, someday may lead to the ability to protect average brains from memory loss. "

Geula's research is part of a larger super aging study at Northwestern's Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center (CNADC). The study's goal is to identify high functioning individuals over 80 and investigate what factors are important to maintain this ability into old age. A number of super aged individuals have been identified and are being followed up annually with tests of cognitive abilities. Recruitment continues for the study.


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Contact: Marla Paul
Marla-Paul@northwestern.edu
312-503-8928
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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