80-Year-Old Has Memory of a 50-Year-Old

Researcher compares 3-D brain scans of older people to those of younger ones.
3:00 | 08/17/12

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Transcript for 80-Year-Old Has Memory of a 50-Year-Old
And now, we turn to healthy living, and a big and intriguing new study out today about the brain, and how to keep a razor sharp memory. The secrets of the so-called superagers, these are people in THEIR 80s WHO CAN TROUNCE PEOPLE Half their age. Here's abc's dr. Richard besser. Reporter: Superager. Think of it as a kind of "triple word score" of brain health. Virginia kenealy is one of them. ♪ I started playing piano when I was 64. Crossword puzzles I like a lot, and sudoku. And of course scrabble. Reporter: And that sudoku, she does it in pen. She's got what we all want. A brain, at 84, that looks and acts young. And that's from looking directly at her brain. We found that the superagers actually looked more like the 50-year-olds. Reporter: Emily rogalski at northwestern university did 3d brain scans of a dozen seniors who did particularly well on memory tests and compared them to 50-year-olds. That's where superagers come in. A new name for people between 80 and 90 whose memories don't decline. Take a look at the average brain, and the outermost layer, the cerebral cortex. For most of us, it's two to four millimeters thick. When we hit 50, this layer, in charge of memory, starts to thin. But not in these folks. Despite being 20 to 30 years older, they have part of the brain that seems to have more cells in it. And so the question is why? Reporter: Virginia says she's too busy living her life, one scrabble game at a time, to think about it much. I don't know what I did to cause that, it's just in 2 genes, I guess. Reporter: Dr. Richard besser, abc news, new york.

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