Study Shows 'SuperAgers' Have Thicker Cortex, No Atrophy

Thicker cerebral cortex than aged-matched controls; no atrophy versus middle-aged controls

MONDAY, Aug. 20 (HealthDay News) -- 'SuperAgers,' individuals over the age of 80 with episodic memory performance as good as normative values for 50- to 65-year-olds, do exist, and they have a thicker cerebral cortex, with no atrophy, according to a study published online Aug. 16 in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society.

Theresa M. Harrison, of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and colleagues investigated whether or not SuperAgers exist and, if so, whether or not they are resistant to age-related loss of cortical brain volume. Cortical morphometry was assessed using structural magnetic resonance imaging and was compared in a cohort of 12 SuperAgers, 10 age-matched elderly controls, and 14 middle-aged 50- to 65-year-old controls.

The researchers found that the cerebral cortex of the SuperAgers was significantly thicker than their age-matched counterparts and exhibited no atrophy when compared with their younger counterparts. A region of the left anterior cingulate cortex was significantly thicker in SuperAgers compared with age-matched elderly or middle-aged controls.

"The SuperAgers showed significantly greater cortical thickness and volume than their cognitively normal age-matched peers and showed no significant cortical atrophy when compared to younger, cognitively intact individuals 20 to 30 years younger (50- to 65-year-olds)," the authors write. "These findings are remarkable given the numerous reports that grey matter loss is a common if not universal, part of normal aging."

Some of the data collection for this project was funded by the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, which is funded by pharmaceutical companies.

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