People over the age of 80 with similar memory to individuals under 20 to 30 have been studied for decades and have earned a name. They are old.
As we age, the brain goes through a slow and continuous decline, with impaired communication between neurons and consequent memory damage. This, however, is not a rule. In 2016, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital found that older adults have a different brain structure and neural network much like those of younger adults.
To reach this conclusion, a group of 40 people with an average age of 67 underwent a memory test and, at the same time, had their brains analyzed on a functional MRI scan — which, unlike common resonance, shows activities from different brain regions during tasks. For comparison, 41 young adults — with an average age of 25 — passed the same test.
The researchers were unable to distinguish the performance of the elderly from that of the young volunteers, as the visual cortex (the area of the brain that processes images) of the elderly maintained their patterns when they were younger. The results of the research were published in the scientific journal cerebral cortex.
According to the authors, it remains to be understood whether older people always have more efficient memory than their peers, or whether these mechanisms are developed during old age. Another point to consider is whether any intervention can delay or even prevent the common neurological deterioration, as well as the lifestyle impact.
Superidosos and Alzheimer’s
Talking about memory in the elderly refers to a well-known neurodegenerative disease, which is Alzheimer’s disease. But being old does not guarantee complete protection against this condition, according to a Brazilian study.
Researchers from the University of São Paulo (USP), the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) and PUC-Rio Grande do Sul studied the brains of 150 volunteers to research older adults and understand what made them exceptional. At the same time, they analyzed the indicators of the disease.
According to Riccardo Nitrini, a professor of neurology at the University of the South Pacific and one of the research authors, of the total number of participants, only 11 were classified as elderly. Therefore, the feature can be considered rare.
Among them, the protein beta-amyloid – whose buildup in the brain is linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease – was identified by computed tomography. Therefore, being old will not be a shield against neurodegenerative diseases, although they may take longer to appear.
“If these individuals survive for another 20 years, they may have had the disease,” Netrini explains. According to the researcher, the studied group was small and studies still lack more specific conclusions.
The next step will be genetic analysis of patients with cognitive impairment, and comparison with data from the elderly. “We already have the material collected and we’re in the study phase. We’ll be able to compare the sample to a database with people with Alzheimer’s disease, for example,” says Netrini.
Major studies on older adults conducted in developed countries take into account the higher education level of the participants to explain the exceptional characteristics. but one research A Brazilian study conducted at UFMG questions the prevalence of this agent.
In a master’s thesis held at the institution’s medical school, neurologist Carolyn Carvalho-Carmona analyzed data from participants in the PIETTA project, which aims to epidemiological investigation of a population aged 75 or over, in the city of Cite, Minas Gerais. In the results, older adults were identified even among people with less than three years of school age.
According to the researcher, the presence of people with low education, but high cognitive performance, enhances the influence of biological and genetic determinants of “successful” brain aging.
“But the importance of school life cannot be discounted, as it is most likely related to multifactorial relationships,” Caroline stresses, in a press release.
The survey also found that older adults had less frequent depressive symptoms, such as fear, feelings of inferiority, and abandonment of interests. “It has already been reported that these people have different temperaments. In older people, neurons are associated with social issues. They have fewer negative traits,” confirms Paolo Caramelli, a neurologist and the study’s lead author.
A study group of elderly people at Northwestern University in the US detailed four habits that are identified frequently in the daily lives of people who are considered “old people” – an English term.
1. Older people have an active life. Maintaining a frequency of physical exercises, even twice a week, increases oxygenation, and improves the performance of the whole body.
While aerobic exercise helps the heart, weight training reduces the risk of falls. Another benefit is weight maintenance, which even helps control Alzheimer’s disease. People with a body mass index (IMC) Over the age of 30 have a triple risk of developing the condition.
2. Older people challenge themselves. Mental activities are just as important as physical activities, as they stimulate the brain in new ways. There are several options: Sudoku exercises, reading a book, an article, an article on an unfamiliar topic, or even learning something that gets you out of your comfort zone.
3. Old people are friendly and make friends easily. Having deep social relationships with others is one of the characteristics of this category. In fact, the area of the brain devoted to attention has four to five times the number of neurons called von Economo in this group of people. These are neurons associated with social processes and consciousness.
4. Older people drink too. There are old people who are fit and others who drink a little alcohol every night. The key is moderation, as excessive alcohol intake can be considered a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
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