66| SuperAging – A Conversation With Dr. Emily Rogalski

The Alzheimer’s Association reports that 50% of older adults above age 80 have Alzheimer’s disease.  Within the 50% of older adults who do not meet criteria for Alzheimer’s disease, most experience typical age-related changes in memory.  However, there is a small group of older adults who Dr. Emily Rogalski, a clinical and cognitive neuroscientist at Northwestern University, calls “SuperAgers.”  Dr. Rogalski studies “SuperAging,” which describes older adults who are seemingly resistant to the deleterious changes in memory associated with typical or atypical aging.  Today, John and Ryan talk with Dr. Rogalski about the creation and development of the concept of SuperAging, as well as what she thinks confers resilience to age-related cognitive change.

A pdf of the transcript for this episode is available here.

Topics Covered

  • Causes of age-related cognitive change
  • Difference between “average” and “intact” performance
  • Operational definition of the terms SuperAging and successful aging
  • Differences in aging in middle age adults
  • Intra- and inter-individual variability in aging
  • What we know about the prevalence of SuperAging
  • Screening for SuperAging
  • Considering SuperAging defined by cognitive domains other than memory
  • Cognitive trajectories and structural and functional brain changes in SuperAgers
  • Emotional wellbeing in SuperAgers versus typically aging older adults
  • Role of resistance and resilience to AD pathology in SuperAging
  • Relationship of race/ethnicity, sex, and SES to SuperAging
  • Relationship of “blue zones” to SuperAging
  • Personality and lifestyle factors and their relationship to SuperAging

About Emily

Emily Rogalski, Ph.D., is a clinical and cognitive neuroscientist and Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.  She also serves as the Associate Director of the Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer Disease and as Imaging Core Leader of their NIA-funded Alzheimer’s Disease Center.

Selected Resources

Info about Northwestern SuperAging Project

Dr. Rogalski’s Cognitive Aging Summit Talk

Selected References

Burke, S. N., Mormino, E. C., Rogalski, E. J., Kawas, C. H., Willis, R. J., & Park, D. C. (2019). What are the later life contributions to reserve, resilience, and compensation?. Neurobiology of aging83, 140-144.

Cook, A. H., Sridhar, J., Ohm, D., Rademaker, A., Mesulam, M. M., Weintraub, S., & Rogalski, E. (2017). Rates of cortical atrophy in adults 80 years and older with superior vs average episodic memory. Jama317(13), 1373-1375.

Cook Maher, A., Kielb, S., Loyer, E., Connelley, M., Rademaker, A., Mesulam, M. M., … & Rogalski, E. (2017). Psychological well-being in elderly adults with extraordinary episodic memory. PloS one12(10), e0186413.

Depp, C. A., Harmell, A., & Vahia, I. V. (2011). Successful cognitive aging. Behavioral neurobiology of aging, 35-50.

de Godoy, L. L., Alves, C. A. P. F., Saavedra, J. S. M., Studart-Neto, A., Nitrini, R., da Costa Leite, C., & Bisdas, S. (2020). Understanding brain resilience in superagers: a systematic review. Neuroradiology, 1-21.

Gefen, T., Shaw, E., Whitney, K., Martersteck, A., Stratton, J., Rademaker, A., … & Rogalski, E. (2014). Longitudinal neuropsychological performance of cognitive SuperAgers. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society62(8), 1598-1600.

Goldberg, T. E. (2019). Comments about superaging and superagers. Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring11, 564.

Harrison, T. M., Weintraub, S., Mesulam, M. M., & Rogalski, E. (2012). Superior memory and higher cortical volumes in unusually successful cognitive aging. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society: JINS18(6), 1081.

Huentelman, M. J., Piras, I. S., Siniard, A. L., De Both, M. D., Richholt, R. F., Balak, C. D., … & Rogalski, E. J. (2018). Associations of MAP2K3 gene variants with superior memory in SuperAgers. Frontiers in aging neuroscience10, 155.

Kaplan, A., & Rogalski, E. (2013). SuperAgers: insights into the brains of 80+-year-old memory superstars. Psychiatric Times30(6), 3-3.

Kim, B. R., Kwon, H., Chun, M. Y., Park, K. D., Lim, S. M., Jeong, J. H., & Kim, G. H. (2020). White Matter Integrity Is Associated With the Amount of Physical Activity in Older Adults With Super-aging. Frontiers in aging neuroscience12, 294.

Maccora, J., Peters, R., & Anstey, K. J. (2020). Gender differences in superior-memory SuperAgers and associated factors in an Australian cohort. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 0733464820902943.

Rogalski, E. J. (2019). Don’t forget—Age is a relevant variable in defining SuperAgers. Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring11, 560.

Rogalski, E. J., Gefen, T., Shi, J., Samimi, M., Bigio, E., Weintraub, S., … & Mesulam, M. M. (2013). Youthful memory capacity in old brains: anatomic and genetic clues from the Northwestern SuperAging Project. Journal of cognitive neuroscience25(1), 29-36.

Rogalski, E., Gefen, T., Mao, Q., Connelly, M., Weintraub, S., Geula, C., … & Mesulam, M. M. (2019). Cognitive trajectories and spectrum of neuropathology in Super Agers: The first 10 cases. Hippocampus29(5), 458-467.

Saloner, R., Campbell, L. M., Serrano, V., Montoya, J. L., Pasipanodya, E., Paolillo, E. W., … & Moore, D. J. (2019). Neurocognitive superaging in older adults living with HIV: Demographic, neuromedical and everyday functioning correlates. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society: JINS25(5), 507.

Sun, F. W., Stepanovic, M. R., Andreano, J., Barrett, L. F., Touroutoglou, A., & Dickerson, B. C. (2016). Youthful brains in older adults: preserved neuroanatomy in the default mode and salience networks contributes to youthful memory in superaging. Journal of Neuroscience36(37), 9659-9668.


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