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posted: 8/26/2013 5:40 AM

Study seeks super ages' secrets to brain health

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  • Emily Rogalski, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University's cognitive neurology and Alzheimer's disease center in Chicago, holds a human brain in the center's laboratory. Rogalski is the study leader in the research of a rare group of "super ages."

      Emily Rogalski, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University's cognitive neurology and Alzheimer's disease center in Chicago, holds a human brain in the center's laboratory. Rogalski is the study leader in the research of a rare group of "super ages."
    Associated Press

  • Edith Stern, 92, holds a photo of her father in her studio apartment at a retirement home in Chicago. Stern who is originally from Czechoslovakia lost her parents and her husband in the Holocaust.

      Edith Stern, 92, holds a photo of her father in her studio apartment at a retirement home in Chicago. Stern who is originally from Czechoslovakia lost her parents and her husband in the Holocaust.
    Associated Press

  • Don Tenbrunsel, 85, a soup kitchen volunteer, makes lunches at St. Josaphat's Church in Chicago. Tenbrunsel is a "super ages," participating in a Northwestern University study of people in their 80s and 90s with astounding memories.

      Don Tenbrunsel, 85, a soup kitchen volunteer, makes lunches at St. Josaphat's Church in Chicago. Tenbrunsel is a "super ages," participating in a Northwestern University study of people in their 80s and 90s with astounding memories.
    Associated Press

  • A refrigerator holds slices of human brains used for research at Northwestern University's cognitive neurology and Alzheimer's disease center in Chicago.

      A refrigerator holds slices of human brains used for research at Northwestern University's cognitive neurology and Alzheimer's disease center in Chicago.
    Associated Press

 
By Lindsey Tanner
Associated Press

They're called "super ages" -- men and women who are in their 80s and 90s, but with brains and memories that seem far younger.

Researchers at Northwestern University are looking at this rare group in the hope that they may find ways to help protect others from memory loss. And they've had some tantalizing findings: Imaging tests have found unusually low amounts of age-related plaques along with more brain mass related to attention and memory in these elite seniors.

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The super ages aren't just different on the inside; they have more energy than most people their age and share a positive, inquisitive outlook. Researchers are looking into whether those traits contribute to brain health.

The study is still seeking volunteers, but fewer than 10 percent of would-be participants are eligible.

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