Some Elderly People Stay Sharp in their Mental Performance Despite Alzheimer's Brain Plaques

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Nov 17, 2016 09:47 PM EST

An elderly woman exercising to combat Alzheimer's disease in a care center for elderly, Galicia, 27th November 2007. (Photo : Getty Images/Xurxo Lobato)

A startling discovery reveals that many people above the age of 90 maintained excellent memory although their brains showed clear signs of Alzheimer's disease. This discovery challenges conventional thinking.

The researchers studied 90+-year-olds' brains after their death. They enjoyed excellent memory and mental sharpness. The mental performance of these all in some tests while living was like those in their 50s or 60s.  

Brain tissues of eight such elderly people showed a range of Alzheimer's features. Two people had remarkably clean brains, only a few signs of amyloid-beta plaques and tangles of tau protein were there.

Four brains at their middling levels. The rest of the two were crammed with tangles and plaques. These could be diagnosed with Alzheimer if tests were carried prior to their death.

Study coauthor Changiz Geula of Northwestern University's medical school said at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, "These people, for all practical purposes, should be demented."

He further added, ". "What's surprising is this segment of people does exist. We have to find out why."

The tests also revealed that brains with even middling levels of Alzheimer had more healthy-looking cells then brains of people suffering from similar plaque and tangle or dementia.

Science News writes that the reason how people maintained such sharp memory and mental performance despite having plaques and tangles is not known. The experts are eager to find out the reasons!

Changiz Geula also said, "The implication is that factors protect some elderly people. Investigation of these factors is crucial if we are to help individuals with Alzheimer's disease live a normal life, and even to help [other] elderly people avoid the natural decline in cognition that comes with age."

Health Day posted a report that the first task of Geula's research team is to understand the status of the brain cells deeper and better. It is also under search to find out whether the other aspects of the brain are being affected.

Geula expressed another goal and said that another genetic testing is needed to be launched to check what the inherited genetic variations of these people are. These could have played a role in protecting their brains from declining in thinking skills.

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