Are you a very alert person? It may pay off as you age.

New research suggests some elderly people who retain sharp memory skills as they age also manage to maintain brains that deteriorate less.

The scientists — at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine — suspect that a brain region involved in attention may be key.

The team studied 12 80-plus-year people whom they identified as “Super Agers.” These people performed as well on memory tests as a group of volunteers between the ages of 50 and 65.

MRI scans of both groups and of a third group of average subjects over age 80 revealed that the Super Agers’ brain thickness matched that of the younger group.

In fact, the brains of the Super Agers were actually thicker than those of the younger group in one particular region — the anterior cingulate. The researchers found that, compared with normal people over age 80, Super Agers have four times as many von Economo neurons, which are large cingulate brain cells used in higher-order thinking.

We may not all be Super Agers, but the findings have the potential to someday help us strive to be. The research was published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society.