02/21/2018 20:02 EST | Updated 02/21/2018 20:21 EST

Superagers' brains offer clues for sharp memory in old age

WASHINGTON — Scientists are peering into the brains of "superagers" — people in their 80s and 90s who have retained unusually sharp memory — to learn the secrets to cognitive health.

At Chicago's Northwestern University, researchers have found a few clues. Superagers' brains aren't shrinking as fast as their peers'. And autopsies show they harbour more of a special kind of nerve cell in a deep brain region that's important for attention.

The ultimate goal is to find ways to help the rest of us maintain brain health late in life, guarding against both common age-related slowing as well as dementia.

Findings were presented recently at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.