ACS LogoThis news may dole out vital insights regarding sharp memory even in old age. A study claims that brains of people who remained mentally alert in their 80’s and beyond apparently confronts the idea that brain alterations could be associated with mental decline.

Elderly people with super-sharp memory in some way had escaped the creation of brain tangles. These tangles may comprise of an irregular type of a protein known as the ‘tau’ that appears to impair and ultimately destroy nerve cells. Tangles supposedly augments with progressing age and peak in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Geula, principal investigator of the Northwestern University Super Aging Project and a professor of neuroscience at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center, commented, “This discovery is very exciting. It is the first study of its kind and its implications are vast. We always assumed that the accumulation of tangles is a progressive phenomenon throughout the normal aging process. Healthy people develop moderate numbers of tangles, with the most severe cases linked to Alzheimer’s disease. But now we have evidence that some individuals are immune to tangle formation. The evidence also supports the notion that the presence of tangles may influence cognitive performance. Individuals with the fewest tangles perform at superior levels. Those with more appear to be normal for their age.”

The discoveries appear to be based on assessment of the 9 brains from super-aged individuals. Volunteers agree to offer their brains for inspection following death. They are deemed to be ‘super- aged’ due to their high performance on the exams. The tests comprise of memory exercises to assess their capability to recollect facts after being told a story or their aptitude to recall a list of more than a dozen words and remember those words after some time. The super-aged people enlisted for this study until now are all over 80 years old, but they supposedly executed the memory tasks at the level of 50-year-olds. The experts are enrolling more participants for the study, with the objective of ultimately involving around 50 people.

Geula mentioned that the current study concentrates on what’s right with the brains of older people. It looks for insights into what lifestyle, genetic or other factors may defend super-aged individuals from the age-related memory loss that is suffered by most of the old people. The study authors discovered that super-aged people seem to belong in two subgroups namely those who are nearly immune to tangle formation and those that appear to encompass few tangles.

Geula explained, commented, “One group of super-aged seems to dodge tangle formation. Their brains are virtually clean, which doesn’t happen in normal-aged individuals. The other group seems to get tangles but it’s less than or equal to the amount in the normal elderly. But for some reason, they seem to be protected against its effects.”

The subsequent step may include finding out why one subgroup is immune to tangle formation and the other appears to be immune to its effects.

The study was presented at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).