Youthful Memory in Superaging

“‘Superagers’ over 80 have the memory and brain connectivity of twenty-somethings”

Both the default mode network and salience network in superagers had stronger connectivity than typical older adults and similar connectivity as younger adults. Superagers performed similarly to young adults and better than typical older adults in recognition and episodic memory tasks.

Abstract

Stronger Functional Connectivity in the Default Mode and Salience Networks Is Associated With Youthful Memory in Superaging

“Superagers” are older adults who, despite their advanced age, maintain youthful memory. Previous morphometry studies revealed multiple default mode network (DMN) and salience network (SN) regions whose cortical thickness is greater in superagers and correlates with memory performance. In this study, we examined the intrinsic functional connectivity within DMN and SN in 41 young (24.5 ± 3.6 years old) and 40 older adults (66.9 ± 5.5 years old). Superaging was defined as youthful performance on a memory recall task, the California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT). Participants underwent a resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan and performed a separate visual–verbal recognition memory task. As predicted, within both DMN and SN, superagers had stronger connectivity compared with typical older adults and similar connectivity compared with young adults. Superagers also performed similarly to young adults and better than typical older adults on the recognition task, demonstrating youthful episodic memory that generalized across memory tasks. Stronger connectivity within each network independently predicted better performance on both the CVLT and recognition task in older adults. Variation in intrinsic connectivity explained unique variance in memory performance, above and beyond youthful neuroanatomy. These results extend our understanding of the neural basis of superaging as a model of successful aging.

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