SuperAgers – Keeping Your Brain Young for Life – Positive Neuropsychology?

Secret Brains of ‘SuperAger’

80-Year-Olds with Brains That Look and Act As If They Were 30

From ScienceDaily (Aug. 16, 2012)

Medicine has looked at what is wrong with us for over a hundred years. Yet with the advent of positive psychology, researchers are beginning to ask what is right with us. Northwestern researcher Emily Rogalski asked what goes right in the brains of the elderly who have terrific memories. And, do such people — known as cognitive SuperAgers — even exist?

Rogalski’s latest study has identified for the first time ever a resilient group of people over the age of 80 whose memory and attention are as functional as people 30 years younger.

In particular, the vitality of the SuperAgers’ cortex was impressive. The cortex is the outer layer of the brain and is critical for memory, attention and other executive functions.  SuperAgers’ cortex was much thicker than the cortex of the normal group of folks aged 80 and older (whose showed significant thinning) and more closely resembled the cortex size of participants ages 50 to 65, considered the middle-aged group of the study.

“These findings are remarkable given the fact that grey matter or brain cell loss is a common part of normal aging,” said Rogalski, the principal investigator of the study and an assistant research professor at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern University School of Medicine.

By identifying older people who seem to be uniquely protected from the deterioration of memory and atrophy of brain cells that accompanies aging, Rogalski hopes to unlock the secrets of their youthful brains. Those discoveries may be applied to protect others from memory loss or even Alzheimer’s disease.

“By looking at a really healthy older brain, we can start to deduce how SuperAgers are able to maintain their good memory,” Rogalski stated. “Many scientists study what’s wrong with the brain, but maybe we can ultimately help Alzheimer’s patients by figuring out what goes right in the brain of SuperAgers. What we learn from these healthy brains may inform our strategies for improving quality of life for the elderly and for combatting Alzheimer’s disease.”

In another region deep in the brain, the anterior cingulate of SuperAger participants’ was actually thicker than in the 50 to 65 year olds.

“This is pretty incredible,” Rogalski said. “This region is important for attention. Attention supports memory. Perhaps the SuperAgers have really keen attention and that supports their exceptional memories.”

Only 10 percent of the people who “thought they had outstanding memories” met the criteria for the study. To be defined as a SuperAger, the participants needed to score at or above the norm of the 50 to 65 year olds on memory screenings.

“These are a special group of people,” Rogalski said. They aren’t growing on trees.”

For the study, Rogalski viewed the MRI scans of 12 Chicago-area Superager participants’ brains and screened their memory and other cognitive abilities. The study included 10 normally aging elderly participants who were an average age of 83.1 and 14 middle-aged participants who were an average age of 57.9. There were not significant differences in education among the groups.

Most of the SuperAger participants plan to donate their brains to the study. “By studying their brains we can link the attributes of the living person to the underlying cellular features,” Rogalski said.

Set your goal to be a SuperAger. Act AS IF your memory and attention are growing stronger with age.

To life, love and laughter,

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Positive Psychology Coach

Author of the award-winning Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion & Thought

Guide To Self, Inc.

913 San Ramon Valley Blvd. #280

Danville CA 94526

GuideToSelf.comWeb site

WebAngerManagement.com – 10-week online anger management course

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Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Northwestern University, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.



Journal Reference:

1.     Theresa M. Harrison, Sandra Weintraub, M.-Marsel Mesulam and Emily Rogalski. Superior Memory and Higher Cortical Volumes in Unusually Successful Cognitive Aging. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 2012 DOI: 10.1017/S1355617712000847

Top of Form

Northwestern University (2012, August 16). Secrets of ‘SuperAger’ brains: Elderly super-agers have brains that look and act decades younger than their age. ScienceDaily.

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How Do Emotions Impact Your Goals?

I was recently asked for a quote for www.Livestrong.com for an article on emotions and how they influence our attainment of goals around health and wellness (i.e., optimal human functioning). Here is my short email…

Guilt has a boomerang effect on you
Guilt has a boomerang effect on you

Hi! I hope this note finds you smiling! My Ph.D. is in educational psychology out of UC Berkeley. I currently teach positive psychology (JFKU), coach individuals in anger management and the latest ways to use positive psychology.

I am a self-professed emotion ‘geek’. I have studied emotion
research for a decade now. I love discovering how emotions affect our behaviors, such as health and wellness goals (e.g., losing weight, building muscle, eating better, learning a sport, or building psychological resiliency).

For instance, a recent study showed that guilt has a boomerang effect where it first causes the guilty party to avoid the guilt-inducing situation. Then guilt causes one to approach the situation to make things better. This is the first emotion I am aware of that’s been scientifically shown to have both an approach and an avoidance component to it.

In terms of wellness goals then, a moderate level of guilt (think a 4-6 on a 10 point scale) may work effectively at meeting wellness goals. If you fall off the wagon and feel guilty about it, you are likely to re-approach your goal shortly with a renewed motivation.

Elevation is the positive emotion experienced when you watch another person perform an act of moral courage or high integrity, and was first ‘discovered’ by Jon Haidt. This emotion seems to act as a hidden reset button wiping out doubt, replacing it with feelings of inspiration, hope and optimism. Elevation creates a desire to become a better person and thus, is likely to lend itself to meeting wellness goals.

Please note: When I interviewed Jon Haidt several years ago, he was not ready at that time to label elevation an emotion. More research was needed. From what I understand, both Jon and Dacher Keltner at UC Berkeley are now looking into it. I hope that is helpful for your article!

To life, love, and laughter!

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder Guide to Self, Inc.

P.S. Want to find out more about your emotional landscape? Want to figure out HOW to turn down the volume on anger, anxiety or sadness? Need to know the latest in anger management tools? Would you like to learn how to cultivate more positive emotions in your daily life? Just visit www.GuideToSelf.com, and click on the yellow book icon. Enter your name and email address for a FREE PDF copy of John’s award-winning book, Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought, because when it comes to the emotional mind, we’re all beginners!

Relationships Affected By Your Goals – Better Than Others or Improve Self?

From the magnificent ScienceDaily.com…

John Schinnerer Ph.D. personal goal setting

Your View of Personal Goals Can Affect Your Relationships

ScienceDaily (Nov. 22, 2010) — How you think about your goalswhether it’s to improve yourself or to do better than others — can affect whether you reach those goals. Different kinds of goals can also have distinct effects on your relationships with people around you, according to the authors of a paper published in Current Directions in Psychological Science.

People with “mastery goals” want to improve themselves. Maybe they want to get better grades, make more sales, or land that triple toe loop.

On the other hand, people with what psychologists call “performance goals” are trying to outperform others — to get a better grade than a friend or be Employee of the Year. Both kinds of goals can be useful in different contexts. But P. Marijn Poortvliet, of Tilburg University in the Netherlands, and Céline Darnon, of France’s Clermont University, are interested in the social context of these goals — what they do to your relationships.

For a FREE copy of the award-winning self-improvement book, Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought, simply visit http://www.GuideToSelf.com and enter your name and email address for instant access to your very own PDF copy! Change the world by changing your self! 

Poortvliet’s work focuses on information exchange — whether people are open and honest when they are working together. “People with performance goals are more deceitful” and less likely to share information with coworkers, both in the laboratory and in real-world offices he has studied, Poortvliet says. “The reason is fairly obvious — when you want to outperform others, it doesn’t make sense to be honest about information.”

On the other hand, people who are trying to improve themselves are quite open, he says. “If the ultimate goal is to improve yourself, one way to do it is to be very cooperative with other people.” This can help improve the work environment, even though the people with these goals aren’t necessarily thinking about social relations. “They’re not really altruists, per se. They see the social exchange as a means toward the ends of self improvement.” Other research has found that people with these self-improvement goals are more open to hearing different perspectives, while people with a performance goal “would rather just say, ‘I’m just right and you are wrong.'”

It’s not always bad to be competitive, Poortvliet says. “For example, if you want to be the Olympic champion, of course it’s nice to have mastery goals and you should probably have mastery goals, but you definitely need performance goals because you want to be the winner and not the runner-up.”

But it’s important to think about how goals affect the social environment. “If you really want to establish constructive and long-lasting working relationships, then you should really balance the different levels of goals,” Poortvliet says — thinking not only about each person’s achievement, but also about the team as a whole.

Some people are naturally more competitive than others. But it’s also possible for managers to shift the kinds of goals people have by, for example, giving a bonus for the best employee. That might encourage people to set performance goals and compete against each other. On the other hand, it would also be possible to structure a bonus program to give people rewards based on their individual improvement over time.

Original article can be found by clicking here.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Association for Psychological Science.

Journal Reference:
1. P. Marijn Poortvliet and Céline Darnon. Toward a More Social Understanding of Achievement Goals: The Interpersonal Effects of Mastery and Performance Goals. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2010; 19 (5): 324 DOI: 10.1177/0963721410383246

To life, love and laughter,

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder Guide to Self, Inc.

www.GuideToSelf.com

http://drjohnsblog.wordpress.com  Excellent blog on the latest anger management tools