Researchers at the University of New South Wales have found that those aged 95 and older have more activity between the left and right sides of their brain than people younger than them. Perhaps most interesting, is that this comes without either party experiencing cognitive decline.
"We wanted to see if there was something particularly special about the brain's functional connectivity of those aged 95 and older that helps them preserve brain function into the 11th decade of their life," says Dr. Jiyang Jiang, a neuroimaging expert and leader of the study.
For the study, the researchrs used resting-state functional MRI to visualize neural activity in those approaching 100 years old and older. In total, they examined and compared 57 pepole aged between 95 and 103 years old with 66 cognitively unimpaired younger particpants aged between 76 and 79.
"Findings suggested that, compared to young-old controls, centenarians showed more synchronized activation of left and right fronto-parietal control networks," said Dr. Jiang. "In near-centenarians and centenarians, this coupled activation of bilateral fronto-parietal control networks contributed to better performance on visuospatial cognitive tasks.”
The researchers say that their findings provide a ‘fine example’ of the secrets of healthy aging, as well as how the brain adapts to age-related changes. In particular, they say that their findings emphasize the role of the fronto-parietal control network, known as cognitive reserve, in being able to adapt to varying cogntive abilities, aging and disease. As such, they suggest that the functioning of the control network may play a key role in helping to prevent age-related cognitive decline among the near-centenarians and centenarians.
In the future, the researchers plan on investigating the underlying mechanisms behind this cogntive reserve. In doing so, they will be able to inform the development of therapeutics to prevent age-related loss in brain function.