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'SuperAgers' Have Less Whole-Brain Cortical Volume Loss

Cognitively-average elderly have significantly greater annual percent change compared with SuperAgers

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WEDNESDAY, April 5, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Cognitively-average elderly adults have greater annual whole-brain cortical volume loss than adults age 80 years and older with episodic memory ability at least as good as that of average middle-age adults (SuperAgers), according to a research letter published in the April 4 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Amanda H. Cook, from Northwestern University in Chicago, and colleagues quantitated the rates of cortical volume change over 18 months in SuperAgers and cognitively-average elderly adults. Data were included for 24 SuperAgers and 12 cognitively-average elderly adults who had structural magnetic resonance imaging scans at two consecutive study visits about 18 months apart.

The researchers found that, compared with cognitively-average elderly adults, SuperAgers had significantly higher category fluency at visit one and episodic memory scores at both visits. Both groups had statistically significant mean annual percent whole-brain cortical volume loss (SuperAgers, 1.06 percent [95 percent confidence interval, 0.50 to 1.63 percent; P < 0.001]; cognitively-average elderly, 2.24 percent [95 percent confidence interval, 1.06 to 3.42 percent; P = 0.002]). Cognitively-average elderly had an annual percent change in whole-brain cortical volume loss that was significantly greater than that seen in SuperAgers (difference, 1.18 percent; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.08 to 2.28 percent; unadjusted P = 0.04; adjusted P = 0.02).

"Cognitively-average elderly adults demonstrated greater annual whole-brain cortical volume loss compared with SuperAgers," the authors write. "The possibility that SuperAgers were also constitutionally endowed with larger brains throughout life cannot be ruled out."

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