A Dutch woman who died recently at the age of 115 years old had a mind as mentally sharp as a much younger person until the day that she died, according to a new study. The study found that she had almost no evidence of Alzheimer’s disease, and concluded that Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are not necessarily inevitable as some had suspected.
Gert Holstege, a neuroscientist at the University Medical Center Groningen, in the Netherlands and lead researcher stated “Our observations suggest that, in contrast to general belief, the limits of human cognitive function may extend far beyond the range that is currently enjoyed by most individuals.” The results of the study were published in the August issue of the journal Neurobiology of Aging.
No Signs of Dementia:
The Dutch woman made arrangements to donate her body to science after her death when she was 82 years old, and later contacted Holstege when she reached the age of 111, concerned that her body may be too old to be useful for teaching purposes or scientific investigation. She was reassured by the neuroscientists that contrary to her belief, they were very interested in her due to her age. Holstege and his associates wrote in the journal article, “She was very enthusiastic about her being important for science.” Psychological and neurological examination were performed when she was 112 and 113 years old, and the results were essentially normal, with no signs of dementia or other cognitive problems. Her actual mental performance was above average for adults aged 60 to 75 years old.
Her body was then donated to science when she died at the age of 115 years old. Holstege and his associates found no signs of atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) and very few other brain abnormalities. Interestingly enough, the amount of brain cells was similar to that of what usually is expected in healthy people between the age of 60 and 80 years old.
There was little or no evidence of Alzheimer’s disease. Neuroscientists found almost no beta-amyloid deposits, which are characteristic of individuals with Alzheimer’s. There were also very few “neurofibrillary tangles” which could have caused a significant level of mental impairment.
One hundred years old isn’t what it used to be.
Currently in the United States, there are approximately 80,000 centenarians (100 years of age or older) according to the Census Bureau. This number is expected to rise to more than 580,000 centenarians by the year 2040.
According to a recent study of a man who lived to the age of 114, it was found that a combination of lifestyle and genes may play a role in longevity, although the recipe for a long life is not clearly identified at this point in time. However, as the number of people living beyond the age of 100 is steadily on the increase, researchers now say that the deterioration of the brain is not an inevitable aspect of aging.
Adapted from LiveScience article 155-year-old Woman’s Brain in Tip-Top Shape posted June 9, 2008
Additional Information and webpage by Paul Susic MA Licensed Psychologist Ph.D. Candidate