Paucity of Entorhinal Cortex Pathology of the Alzheimer's Type in SuperAgers with Superior Memory Performance

Cereb Cortex. 2021 Jun 10;31(7):3177-3183. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhaa409.


Advancing age is typically associated with declining memory capacity and increased risk of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Markers of AD such as amyloid plaques (AP) and neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) are commonly found in the brains of cognitively average elderly but in more limited distribution than in those at the mild cognitive impairment and dementia stages of AD. Cognitive SuperAgers are individuals over age 80 who show superior memory capacity, at a level consistent with individuals 20-30 years their junior. Using a stereological approach, the current study quantitated the presence of AD markers in the memory-associated entorhinal cortex (ERC) of seven SuperAgers compared with six age-matched cognitively average normal control individuals. Amyloid plaques and NFTs were visualized using Thioflavin-S histofluorescence, 6E10, and PHF-1 immunohistochemistry. Unbiased stereological analysis revealed significantly more NFTs in ERC in cognitively average normal controls compared with SuperAgers (P < 0.05) by a difference of ~3-fold. There were no significant differences in plaque density. To highlight relative magnitude, cases with typical amnestic dementia of AD showed nearly 100 times more entorhinal NFTs than SuperAgers. The results suggest that resistance to age-related neurofibrillary degeneration in the ERC may be one factor contributing to preserved memory in SuperAgers.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; SuperAgers; entorhinal cortex; memory; stereology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / pathology
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Aging / psychology
  • Alzheimer Disease* / pathology
  • Alzheimer Disease* / psychology
  • Biological Specimen Banks / trends
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Entorhinal Cortex / pathology
  • Entorhinal Cortex / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Neurofibrillary Tangles / pathology
  • Neurofibrillary Tangles / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Plaque, Amyloid* / pathology
  • Plaque, Amyloid* / psychology