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Brain of Oldest Person in the World is Autopsied

Posted Sep 24 2008 11:43am
Post-mortem examination of a 115-year-old Dutch woman, recorded as the oldest living human at the time of her death from gastric cancer in 2005, revealed almost no signs of Alzheimer disease, with no amyloid plaques and only a few neurofibrillary tangles (Braak tangle stage II). Pictured is the patient's hippocampus and parahippocampal gyrus. These structures, the first to atrophy in Alzheimer patients, look rather robust in this case. Additionally, she had almost no atherosclerotic changes in her cerebral vessels. These findings correspond to her cognitive function late in life: Henrikjje van Andel Schipperr performed better on neuropsychological assessments than the average 60- to 75-year-old adult! Why might Mrs. van Andel Schipperr have had such a healthy brain even at such an advanced age? Here are some speculative advantages that experts think might have been neuroprotective: she was a woman, she did not smoke, she drank an occasional glass of wine, and she did not each much. But perhaps the most important factor is that longevity ran in her family (Mrs. van Andel Schipperr’s mother lived to be 100-years-old). Thanks to neurologist Tom Ala, MD of Southern Illinois University School of Medicine for alerting me to this article.
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