Meet Margaret the Super Ager, whose brain is defying the age
When her mum started putting packets of milk on the stove and the kettle in the fridge Margaret had to make the heartbreaking decision to put her in a nursing home. Her mum died aged 72.

When Margaret was 80 she signed up for the Australian Imaging, Biomarker & Lifestyle (AIBL) study that is helping researchers better understand the factors that lead to Alzheimer's disease. "I assumed I was probably already on the way and it would be too late to help me," says Margaret.

"But I thought it's such an awful disease and I just wanted to help eradicate it for the next generation."

But amazingly, regular brain scans have found that Margaret — now 86 — has virtually no chance of developing dementia, says Jo Robertson, a neuropsychologist with the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, who is involved in the AIBL study.

"She doesn't have any of the brain proteins that we know start to accumulate two decades before people start to have symptoms of dementia." On top of that, tests have shown Margaret's attention and working memory — used, for example, when you reverse a string of digits in your mind — is equivalent to the average 65-year-old.

And her ability to learn and retain new verbal information is greater than 99 per cent of people her age. She says a "handful" of people like Margaret who seem to be resistant to the usually observed effects of ageing were identified among over 100,000 in the AIBL study.

Ten years ago a team there led by neuropsychologists Sandra Weintraub and Emily Rogalski flipped its research paradigm on the head. Instead of looking at what was going wrong to give people Alzheimer's disease they started looking at what was going right for those whose brains weren't ageing the same way.

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