One of the many troubles of old age is that memory is lost, but there are octogenarians who remember everything perfectly, even better than people younger than 20 or 30 years. They are not isolated cases: in America they have defined them SuperAgers, and Northwestern University in Chicago has started a program to study them. They want to understand what is the secret that protects their brain cells from aging and use what is discovered to fight degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. It would be something if only a way could be found to make non-SuperAgers remember where they just left their glasses, mobile phone or house keys.
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People who join Northwestern’s program must be 80 years old and pass a cognitive test in which they demonstrate that they can remember everything in short-term and long-term memory. The university researchers were surprised by the large number of members, which shows that the spry elderly are much more numerous than you think. Almost all SuperAgers still have intense social relationships, are surrounded by relatives and friends, do some activity, read books, love crossword puzzles and dream of participating in a memory-based TV quiz-show like Jeopardy!, the most popular in the United States United. Many of them are willing to leave their brains to science after death, but they willingly submit to research conducted at Northwestern, which with an annual budget of $2.5 billion is one of the wealthiest universities in the country. It has 23,400 students and has already won 23 Nobel prizes in its history.
Carol Siegler, 85, is one of the most studied SuperAgers because she goes to the gym several days a week, has an iron memory, volunteers, attends parties with friends and family, solves crossword puzzles every day, reads all kinds of books and he still says he’s bored. “I feel-she confessed to CNN as a sports car used as a supermarket cart.” Carol knows almost nothing about Beyoncé and Rihanna, but she knows almost everything about Beethoven and Mozart. As a child during the Great Depression, she taught herself to write and play the piano. «I have an excellent memory, I’ve always had it, she added she-she. I was the girl you could ask for any friend’s phone number, because it was engraved in my head.
By studying his brain and that of other SuperAgers, scientists discovered that their cortex, responsible for thinking, decisions and memory, remained much thicker than that of people between 50 and 60, the age in which usually begins to shrink and lose strokes. “The cells in their entorhinal cortex, the area essential to memory and learning and the first area of the brain to be affected by Alzheimer’s, are also larger and healthier,” said Tamar Gefen, one of the Northwestern researchers. . In the brains of octogenarians who remember everything, there are three times fewer “neurofibrillary tangles of tau protein”, a complicated definition that identifies abnormal formations of proteins responsible for cognitive aging. Many of the conclusions reached by scientists suggest that SuperAger is born and not made, and that the characteristics that delay the deterioration of the brain are written in the DNA we inherit at birth. But that’s not entirely true. Lifestyle and the will to continue to be active, socially, physically and intellectually, even in old age, are also decisive. The brain shuts down if we stop using it, but if we keep it trained every day even with just a book, a crossword puzzle and a phone call to friends, it will continue to function as the things we have taken care of almost always do.
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