People with cognitive skills that far exceed the norm in advanced age may be highly resistant to tau and amyloid protein, a new study suggests. These proteins can accumulate in the brain over time and are linked to dementia.

A depiction of brain scans shows amyloid plaque buildup

Investigators analyzed brain scans, comparing these super-agers to adults with normal cognition and mild cognitive impairment. Participants with the least cognitive decline were found to have less tau and amyloid pathology. 

This apparent ability to defy adverse brain changes is likely what allows super-agers to maintain high cognitive performance into late age, the researchers wrote.

“The phenomenon of super-aging suggests that cognitively high-functioning individuals have extraordinary mechanisms that resist brain aging processes and neurodegeneration,” said Merle Hoenig, M.D., from University Hospital Cologne, Germany.

Results were presented at the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging 2020 Annual Meeting.