Cognitive aging: lessons from “superagers”

Cognitive aging: lessons from “superagers”
Cognitive aging: lessons from “superagers”

“But where did I put my keys? I’m really losing my mind! » This type of complaint is common among older people, memory being one of the cognitive faculties that declines the most with age. But some remain as efficient as their 30-year juniors. They are nicknamed superagers (derived from English to age, age), because they age wonderfully. Marta Garo-Pascual, from the Polytechnic University of Madrid, and her colleagues have just shown that their white matter – the nerve fibers that connect neurons – resists the passage of time better than average.

For five years, the researchers followed around sixty superagers over 80 years old, by comparing them to a representative sample of adults of the same age using MRI measurements. The results suggest that the myelin in their nerve fibers (an insulating sheath that helps conduct electrical flow better) is in better condition and degrades less quickly. This would result in better connectivity, which would allow more effective control of the temporal areas (including the hippocampus, a brain center of memory) by the frontal areas and would thus promote the recall of memories.

This mechanism remains to be confirmed, and a possible role of genetics to be clarified, but we know in any case that lifestyle offers real levers for taking care of your white matter. The integrity of the latter is particularly linked to cardiovascular health, so anything that preserves the latter is of interest in this context: a healthy diet, good sleep, sufficient physical activity, etc.

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