Archive for the ‘signs of memory loss’ Category

About Memory

January 16, 2015

hippocampus1The hippocampus is the horseshoe-shaped region of the brain that is heavily associated with memory. It plays an important role in consolidating information from short-term memory into long-term memory.

The hippocampus is part of the limbic system, a system associated with emotions and long-term memories. It is involved in such complex processes as forming, organizing, and storing memories.

Functioning of the hippocampus can decline with age. By the time people reach their 80s, some of them may have lost as much as 20 percent of the nerve connections in the hippocampus.

Experts believe that we can hold approximately seven items in our short-term memory for about 20 to 30 seconds. Grouping related information into smaller “chunks can help us stretch this capacity somewhat.

In a famous paper published in 1956, psychologist George Miller suggested that the capacity of short-term memory for storing a list of items was somewhere between five and nine. Today, many memory experts believe that the true capacity of short-term memory is probably closer to the number four.

Some of the major reasons we forget things include:

  • failure to retrieve the information, which often occurs when memories are rarely accessed, causing them to decay over time
  • interference, which occurs when some memories compete with other memories
  • failing to store the information in memory in the first place
  • intentionally trying to forget things associated with a troubling or traumatic event

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Signs of Early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease

July 9, 2014

Early-onset Alzheimer’s is an uncommon form of dementia that strikes people younger than age 65. While it has been known to develop between ages 30 and 40, it is more common to see someone in his or her 50s who has the disease. Of the more than 5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s, about 5 percent, or approximately 200,000 people, are diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Some cases of early-onset Alzheimer’s have no known cause, but most cases are inherited, a type known as familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD).

Getting an accurate diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s can be a long and frustrating process. The disease affects each person differently and symptoms will vary.

Sometimes symptoms may be incorrectly attributed to stress or there may be conflicting diagnoses from different health care professionals. It could start to show up as problems at work or home, or as lost relationships or jobs.

For most people with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, the early symptoms will closely mirror those of other forms of Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Forgetting important things, particularly newly learned information or important dates
  • Asking for the same information again and again
  • Difficulty solving basic problems, such as keeping track of bills or following a favorite recipe
  • Losing track of the date or time of year
  • Losing track of where you are and how you got there
  • Difficulty with depth perception or other vision problems
  • Difficulty joining conversations or finding the right word for something
  • Misplacing things and not being able to retrace your steps to find it
  • Increasingly poor judgment
  • Withdrawal from work and social situations
  • Changes in mood and personality

Because there is no one test that confirms Alzheimer’s disease, a diagnosis is only made after a comprehensive medical evaluation.

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Link Between Healthy Lifestyle and Fewer Memory Complaints

July 25, 2013

While research has shown that healthy behaviors are associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, less is known about the potential link between positive lifestyle choices and milder memory complaints—especially those that occur earlier in life and could be the first indicators of later problems.

In a recent study, researchers examined the impact of lifestyle choices on memory throughout adult life, surveying participants about both their memory and their health behaviors, including whether they smoked, how much they exercised and how healthy their diet was.

As researchers expected, healthy eating, not smoking and exercising regularly were related to better self-perceived memory abilities for most adult groups. Reports of memory problems also increased with age. However, there were a few surprises.

Older adults (age 60-99) were more likely to report engaging in healthy behaviors than middle-aged (40-59) and younger adults (18-39). (For example, only 12 percent of older adults smoked, compared with 25 percent of young adults and 24 percent of middle-aged adults.) So this finding actually runs counter to the stereotype that aging is a time of dependence and decline.

In addition, while 26 percent of older adults and 22 percent of middle-aged respondents reported memory issues, it was surprising to find that a higher-than-expected 14 percent of the younger group complained about their memory too.

multitask1It’s possible that older adults may participate in more healthy behaviors because they feel the consequences of unhealthy living and take the advice of their doctors to adopt healthier lifestyles. At the same time, memory issues in younger people could be due to stress and the increase in multitasking that comes with the use of technology.

These findings reinforce the importance of educating young and middle-aged individuals to take greater responsibility for their health—including memory by practicing positive lifestyle behaviors earlier in life.

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When to Worry About Losing Your Memory

November 5, 2012

Everybody over a certain age, say, around 50, has experienced “senior moments.” You can’t locate the car keys or come up with the name of someone familiar. Or maybe you stride into a room with purpose and then forget why. You’ve probably wondered—when is a memory slip of the brain nothing to worry about, and when should it trigger a question to your doctor?

Here are some are some tips on when you should and should not worry about your memory, according to Harvard brain specialist Dr. Kirk Daffner:

Normal: Your ability to retrieve the names of friends, especially those you just met recently, is reduced or slower.

Red Flag: You consistently cannot recall the names of close friends or family.

Normal: You don’t immediately recognize somebody you meet outside of their usual context.

Red Flag: You have no recollection of having met a person you know.

Normal: You occasionally do not recall an event or conversation.

Red Flag: you consistently have no memory of events, even when others give you clues.

Normal: You occasionally make a wrong turn when you think you know where you are going.

Red Flag: You frequently get lost in familiar places.

Normal: You are sometimes slow to come up with a word you want.

Red Flag: Repeatedly, a word that was once familiar to you means nothing to you.

Source: “Senior Moments: A Sign Of Worse To Come?,’ NPR: April 11, 2011

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