Posted on Apr 08, 2010, 6 a.m.
In people who retain mental faculties into their 80s and beyond, the brain is absent of tangles characteristic of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Challenging the idea that brain changes linked to mental decline and Alzheimer's disease are an inevitable part of aging, researchers at Northwestern University (Illinois, USA) have found that in people who retain mental faculties into their 80s and beyond, the brain is absent of tangles characteristic of Alzheimer’s Disease. Following participants enrolled in the Northwestern University Super-Aging Project, Changiz Geula and colleagues have discovered that elderly people with super-sharp memory, so-called "super-aged" individuals, have escaped the age-related formation of brain tangles, abnormal proteins that damage and kill neurons. Observing that: “The numbers of phosphorylated tau-positive tangles in the … super-aged were over four-fold lower (as compared to non-demented elderly),” the team comments that: “chemistry is one of the keys to understanding what makes these tangles form. By understanding the specific anatomic, pathological, genetic, and molecular characteristics of high-performing brains, we may eventually be able to protect normal brains from age-related memory loss."
Junzi Shi, Changiz Geula. “Advances in human chemical neuropathology: The super-aging project” (Abstract 81). Presented at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, March 2010.