but there are examples of a few
others who can remember incidences and join new academic courses, sometimes
even as old as 85 years. The vast difference between these two types of aging
population triggered the interests of the authors who studied brain imaging
patterns to find out what made the difference so significant.
‘Combining exercise like swimming and mental activity like joining a degree program will help in superaging.’
Brain Imaging of 'Superagers'
superagers were selected for the study and their brain images were analyzed
using functional magnetic resonance imaging. These images were compared with
brain images of other people who were the same age as the group under study. It
was found that there was a set of brain regions which could be used to
distinguish between the two groups.
regions of the brain were thinner among the 'normal' group of people, which
occurred due to atrophy as a part of aging, while it remained thick in
The thickness of these brain regions were on par with the
thickness of people at a much younger age, making it seem like there has been
no passage of time, as far as brain aging was concerned.
regions of the brain that remained the same even in old age
was determined by the researchers who claim that even though most people would
think that 'cognitive' regions of the brain would be the ones that are
preserved, the study found that 'emotional' regions were the ones that were
scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital state that they were not
surprised by this discovery as there were sufficient studies, which
have dismissed the clear distinction between cognitive and emotional regions of
The Triune Brain
MacLean was the one who first described this model of the brain where an
ancient inner layer was believed to have been inherited from reptiles which
contained the basic 'circuits' that were necessary for survival. The middle
layer was believed to have been inherited form mammals and was called 'the
limbic system' that contained circuits for emotions. The outermost layer was
considered uniquely human and was responsible for rational thinking.
This model of
the brain received a lot of attention from the media but rarely in the
scientific circles. The research team that was probing superagers believe that the brain
could not have developed like a sedimentary rock, with layers of brain cells
being added over time. Instead they had certain regions of the brain that were
re-organized as evolutionary changes were included. The regions of the brain
that were considered purely emotional are now found to be very important for
functions other than for emotions like communication, coordinating the various
senses to provide an integrated experience.
research has found that these regions play an important role in superaging. It
was found that the thicker the cortex regions are, the better the memory and
attention, like recalling names 20minutes after reading a list.
How to Become a Superager?
showed that superagers had a thicker cortex and had better memory and they
continue to study how to become a superager. The most important step to
becoming a superager, according to the researchers, is to work hard at
studies have shown that vital regions of the brain become more active when
people carry out important tasks. These regions, therefore, should be kept
active and thick by carrying out exercises along with intense mental analysis.
the region of the brain implicated in superaging comes with a price; people
whose cortex remains thick even after aging would tend to feel frustrated or
Pushing Past Effort
scientists believe that pushing yourself to work out math problems or even
pushing yourself physically would aid in keeping the brain active. The moto of
U.S marine corps who believe that pain is weakness leaving the body highlights
the need to stay physically active, even though it could be physically
exhausting, in order to gain both physically as well as mentally.
To become a
superager, an individual should push past the initial strain in order to
benefit from maintaining a youthful
The studies conducted show that a more youthful
brain was developed by the superagers and this resulted in a sharp memory and
an ability to pay attention.
The crux of
the study is that there should be the drive to push further ahead and not
resort to pleasant mind puzzles like Sudoku. There should be a greater
challenge that should be extremely exhaustive. In a bid to remain happy, people
tend to move away from physical exertions or brain puzzles that are very
tiring, choosing a simpler option. However, it is important to work through the
initial discomfort or the pain, as in the end it would ensure a more youthful
- Youthful Brains in Older Adults: Preserved Neuroanatomy in the Default Mode and Salience Networks Contributes to Youthful Memory in Superaging - (http://www.jneurosci.org/content/36/37/9659)