Scientists say studying these people’s brains will help them find ways to keep people mentally fit as they age.
The experts, from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, found a number of men and women in their 80s with the same memory capacity as people more than half their age.
Researcher Emily Rogalski used MRI scans on people of all ages and found that in the group of super-agers the cortex – the outer layer of the brain – was much thicker than in the average 80-year-old which tended to show significant thinning.
She said: “These findings are remarkable given the fact that grey matter or brain cell loss is a common part of normal ageing. These are a special group of people..”
Dr Rogalski now hopes to unlock the secrets of a youthful brain.
She said: “By looking at a really healthy older brain, we can start to deduce how super-agers are able to maintain their good memory.
“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 super-agers.
“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.”