Researchers at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine identified a dozen individuals older than 80 years—Super Agers—who performed as well on memory tests as a group of 14 volunteers between the ages of 50 and 65. Compared with normal octogenarians, the Super Agers had four times as many spindle or von Economo neurons, implicated in higher-order thinking. Ongoing research is being designed to try and identify genetic and lifestyle factors significant for preventing age-related decline, especially in relation to these spindle neurons. There may be more than one way to becoming a Super Ager! (Source)

Spindle neurons, also known as VENs or von Economo neurons, named after Constantin von Economo who described them in 1929. These unusual-shaped neurons are a specific class of neurons. They have a single axon that goes in one direction with a single dendrite facing the opposite direction (as compared with other types of neurons that have many dendrites). VENs have been identified in the anterior cingulate cortex, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and the fronto-insular cortex of the human brain. Studies have shown that the brains of some Super Ages had four times as many of these spindle neurons compared to the brains of other older individuals. VENs are believed to impact higher-order thinking. Interestingly enough, these neurons have also been discovered in some other species: whales (e.g., killer, sperm, fin, humpback, beluga); dolphins (bottlenose, Risso’s); and African and Asian elephants; great apes. According to Wikipedia, scientists have implicated spindle neurons as having an important role in many cognitive abilities and disabilities generally unique to humans (e.g., savant perceptiveness, perfect pitch, dyslexia, autism). (Source)