Alzheimer’s disease, a type of neurodegenerative dementia that affects memory, is well known in Canada. Over 500,000 Live with it. This number is expected to double over the next decade as the population ages.
Alzheimer’s disease scares people. When they forget to buy a product at a grocery store, they may blame it for a joke. When they can’t remember the name of a movie actor, they worry about it. Or you might look at an elderly person who is confused and think about it. But do you really know what behaviors can help diagnose Alzheimer’s disease?
As researchers at the Institute of Aging Neuropsychology at the Research Center of the University of Montreal Institute, we are studying this issue. The answer is not easy.
Alzheimer’s disease affects memory. But memories are not a single entity, like the basket in which all our memories are stacked. Therefore, it is important to recognize the different types of memory and how much they are affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
A type of memory includes personal memories of events that we have experienced since childhood.
A little like a photo album, but Episodic memory It includes not only your childhood memories, your first move, your best vacation, but also what you did last weekend and what you did for breakfast this morning.
These are memories that require a kind of “mental journey” in time to return to the context of the events we have experienced in order to be brought back to the surface. When was it? Where were we? with who?
Unlike episodic memory Semantic memory By putting them in context, we collect memories that do not need to be reactivated. It refers to general knowledge of the outside world that is not relevant to a particular place or time.
For example, if you’re wondering which animal has a shell and who is Celine Dion’s husband, you don’t have to think about a particular time in life to find the answer. You don’t have to remember the specific context in which you learned this information. It is general knowledge embedded in our memory.
Separate brain regions
Of course, these two types of memory are closely related to our daily lives. To be able to function, episodic and semantic memory should always be utilized, while continuously encoding new episodic and semantic memory.
Despite the fact that they are related, these two types of memory Nevertheless, it is supported by partially different areas of the brain.. The generation of memories of past events (related to episodic memory) includes the hippocampus, the structure of the medial temporal lobe located in the center of the brain, and the frontal lobe that contextualizes these memories.
General knowledge memory (related to semantic memory), on the other hand, includes the parahippocampal region, the structures immediately surrounding the hippocampus, and the anterior part of the temporal lobe (temporal pole).
What about Alzheimer’s disease?
So what’s more worrisome if you forget the name of the movie you watched the night before or confuse the name of a famous singer?
Alzheimer’s disease is usually associated with episodic memory loss. Patients will complain that they cannot remember what they experienced, what conversations they had, or what they did. It is this type of memory that is most often tested in neuropsychology when assessing dementia, and it is also this type of memory that is studied in most of the studies done in Alzheimer’s disease.
However, new paradigms are emerging in clinical research, especially in the laboratories in which we are conducting research.
According to recent research Semantic memory is first affected in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.We have seen it Patients show a gradual decline in their general knowledge, even before forgetting memories of past events..
For example, naming a celebrity such as Albert Einstein or identifying a famous logo such as Pepsi is more difficult than a healthy elderly person. They are also difficult to answer questions about celebrity biographies-for example. Maurice Richard Do ostriches run, fly and swim? -Alternatively recognize objects such as harmonica, helicopter, and igloo from the drawing.
Symptoms 12 years ago
Studies show Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease who have evaluated different cognitive functions in hundreds of older people begin to have semantic memory defects for up to 12 years before being diagnosed with dementia. Semantic memory problems occur before forgetting past events, spatiotemporal disorientation, loss of belongings, or speech disorders.
However, these deficits are rarely reported by people when they complain about their memory, as they usually find ways to make up for these difficulties in their daily lives. They use catchwords such as “things” to describe concepts that can no longer be named. This explains why semantic memory has been rarely studied in connection with Alzheimer’s disease.
please do not worry
We are often worried about memory and fear Alzheimer’s disease as we age. This is perfectly normal. In clinical neuropsychology, older people often complain about their memory, even if they have no problems at all. Don’t be surprised by slight forgetting, as subjective complaints are not necessarily related to actual memory loss. These complaints may be related to, for example, the presence of anxiety or depressive symptoms, or a feeling of loneliness.
Nevertheless, knowing the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease allows us to keep an eye on the first symptoms of the disease. When I realized that the words were more and more “at the tip of my tongue,” I couldn’t tell the story as accurately as I used to, and it became difficult to name and use everyday things. Knowing that, and that this is worrisome to us and our loved ones, it is appropriate to schedule a visit to a doctor or neuropsychologist.
It’s lucky that, You can take some actions to promote our cognitive health.. First of all, intellectual stimulation is important. Reading books, playing sudoku, playing crossword puzzles and puzzles, playing board games and social activities can increase your resistance to the development of cognitive impairment. A healthy lifestyle is also important.
Regular physical activity, proper diet, and proper sleep habits are as beneficial to physical health as cognitive health.
Author: Émilie Delage-Doctor of Neuropsychology, University of Montreal | Isabelle Rouleau-Professeure titulaire, Département depsychologie, section Neuropsychologie, Université du Québecà Montréal (UQAM) | Sven Joubert-Professeur titulaire, département depsychologie
What kind of memory can you forget about Alzheimer’s disease?
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