In a new study, researchers found stronger functional connectivity—that is, communication among neurons in various networks of the brain—is linked to youthful memory in older adults.
Those with superior memories—called superagers—have the strongest connectivity.
The work is the second in a series of three studies to unlock the secret of something researchers already knew: that some adults in their 80s and 90s function cognitively as well as or better than much younger people.
The first study showed that when compared with typical older adults, the brains of superagers are larger in certain areas that are important for processes that contribute to memory, including learning, storing, and retrieving information.
But brain regions are not isolated islands; they form networks that “talk” to one another to allow for complex behaviors.
Previous research has shown this communication between brain regions is disrupted during normal aging.
The current study shows superagers show not just youthful brain structure, but youthful connectivity as well.
The team looked at superagers, typical adults from 60 to 80 years old, and young adults 18 to 35.
They used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the synchronization of brain waves in the default mode network (DMN) and salience network (SN) of participants in a resting state.
The researchers found typical older adults would have less synchronization in these brain waves—less efficient networks—but that superagers would have networks as efficient as the young adults.
The research team’s next study will analyze fMRI data from brains engaged in memory and other cognitive tasks.
One author of the study is Alexandra Touroutoglou, Ph.D.
The study is published in the journal Cerebral Cortex.
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