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‘Superagers’ Outperform ‘Typical’ Peers on Cognitive Performance Tests

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A study from The Lancet has identified the factors of “superagers” in terms of brain structure and cognitive performance, and could help inform strategies for supporting cognitive health for aging adults.

The study consisted of testing 64 superagers and 55 typical older adults. The superagers demonstrated episodic memories “at least as good” as adults between 20 to 30 years younger.

Part of the reason for this, the study’s authors wrote, could be due to “larger hippocampal volumes, thicker anterior cingulate cortices and slower cortical atrophy.”

The results of the study showed the superagers had a larger amount of total gray matter than typical adults, and typical adults showed a faster decline in gray matter. The study showed the most similar amount of gray matter was measured at 75 years, after which the differences became more evident.

Alongside exhibiting more gray matter, superagers were noted to have “superior performance” in physical tests, indicating better mobility, agility and balance than typical adults. The study’s authors wrote there was no significant difference in exercise habits between the superagers and typical older adults as well.

“Our findings illustrate marked differences, both in brain structure and in multiple clinical and lifestyle features, between superagers and a healthy control group with normal memory function for its age range,” the study’s authors wrote. “The observed between-group differences are therefore likely to reflect a superager resistance to age-related memory decline, rather than two groups at different points of a dementia-related process.”

The study also notes possible mental health factors can impact performance on a memory test, both for younger and older adults, with depression and anxiety being both risk factors and symptoms of dementia.

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“The hypothesis that a potential overlap exists between a genetic basis for superaging and muscle phenotypes for fast movements in older adults could help to direct further research in the topic,” the study concludes.

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