Part of memory-related neurons in super-elderly brains may be 10% larger than others in their 80s or older
September 30, 2022
‘Super seniors’ — people 80 or older with exceptional memory — may have larger-than-expected neurons in a key area of the brain memory.
and agemost people’s memory declines gradually, but some people can still recall past events in their 80s, comparable to people 20 to 30 years younger.
In addition to memory loss, our brains naturally shrink with age, and previous research has shown that this happens less often in super-aged people.
Now, researchers show that super-aged people may have larger-than-expected neurons in the entorhinal cortex, a component of the brain’s memory system.
Tamar Geffen Northwestern University in Illinois and her colleagues imaged the donated brains of six super-seniors who died on average at age 91.The six had previously accepted Participate in ongoing research on super seniors.
The images were compared to seven people who died on average at age 89 and another six people who died on average at age 49, all of whom had memories considered normal for their age.
In super-aged people, their entorhinal cortex neurons were about 10 percent stronger than those who died at a similar age but had unexpected memory.
The neurons of the super-old were even about 5% larger than those of people who were 40 years old before death, suggesting that larger-than-average neurons may contribute to extraordinary memories at age 80 or older.
Compared to peers who died at a similar age, the super-old’s neurons also had far fewer clumps of proteins called tau tangles.It has been suggested that abnormal accumulation of tau is the cause of Alzheimer’s disease.
“I’m still not sure why larger neurons are associated with retained memories, except that they are more resistant to tau tangles,” Geffen said. “Another hypothesis is that they are more structurally sound, leading to more optimized [neural connections]. “
“[The overall study] There is growing evidence that super-seniors differ from typical adults at multiple levels of the brain,” said Alexandra Turutoglu at Harvard Medical School.
“The sample size here is relatively small, but that’s understandable. Super-elderly people are a rare group, so it’s hard to find enough people in postmortem brain studies,” she said.
according to Joseph Andreanoalso at Harvard Medical School, other brain regions associated with know It has been shown that super-elderly people are of a different size compared to people with expected memory. It was unclear whether the size of neurons in the entorhinal cortex specifically explained the enhanced memory, he said.
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