Recent Harvard Study Reveals Old People Retain Youthful Brain FunctionsBy Chris Brandt, UniversityHerald Reporter
A recent study led by researchers from the Harvard Medical revealed that some old people retain their youthful brain functions. The discovery might contain clues how to fight memory loss and dementia.
Researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, studied two groups of adults: 40 adults between the age range of 60 and 80 and 41 who are between the ages of 18 and 35.
The group underwent a series of memory tests and 17 of the test takers showed that they have retained their young minds as well as the brain circuits which are responsible for those abilities.
Imaging studies also revealed that the brain size of some super-agers does not shrink as they normally do in most aging people. The researchers also noticed that two brain areas - the default mode area and the salience network - are also protected from shrinking.
The default mode area is the part of the brain that retains and recalls new information while the salience network is responsible for the function that gives attention to details as well as identifying them.
In fact, the imaging also revealed that some of the super-agers have thicker medial prefrontal cortex than other adults while in some cases, there is no difference at all.
The protected areas, according to the researchers, are correlated with memory ability. They also added that the strongest evidence of this correlation is found in the default mode and salience networks. Previous studies revealed that the para midcingulate cortex - an area where the salience and default mode networks intersect - plays an important role in how brain networks communicate with each other.
The researchers said that understanding what factors protect the brain from shrinkage will help treat age-related memory loss as well as some forms of dementia much more effectively.
The researchers of the study are Bradford Dickerson, an associate professor of neurology at the Harvard School of Medicine and the director of Frontotemporal Disorders Unit at the MGH, Lisa Feldman Barrett from MGH's Department of Psychiatry, and Alexandra Touroutoglou of HMS and MGH's Neurology Department.
The study is published in the journal Neuroscience.