Posts Tagged ‘Alzheimer’s’

It’s a truth… It’s a lie… It’s confabulation?

April 17th, 2017 No comments

There are small lies and there are large lies, and then there are a range of lies that fall in between- not too unbelievable, but just shy of complete plausibility. We’ve all committed a few little white lies, telling mom or dad that yes, of course our homework is done, of course the dishes have been washed, and of course we cleaned our rooms. We grow older and the lies get larger and a bit more complicated- of course we’re out of town, too sick to make it, too tired to meet up. Of course it was a business trip, of course we were at the office late. Then you have the lies that Mr. A, who could be seen as your respectable grandfather, tells about the staff at his nursing home. A likeable business man until a stroke two years ago, and now he’s going around making up stories and claiming that all the aides are sleeping with him (Chlebowski, Chung, Alao, & Pies, 2009).

But can it really be considered just a lie? There’s no evidence of anything going on between Mr. A and the nurses, but is he really just a troublemaker, making up the lies for fun? Or rather are the accusations an example of false memories (untrue or distorted real memories)? Then, take note of the fact that Mr. A had a stroke before these “lies” arose. Confabulation is the term for a memory disturbance, where false or erroneous memories are formed involuntarily and are fully believed to be true, seen with amnesia and Alzheimer’s disease (Bajo, Fleminger, Metcalfe, & Kopelman, 2016; Lee, K. Meguro, Hashimoto, M. Meguro, Ishii, Yamaguchi, & Mori, 2007). Mr. A, then, could vehemently believe in the truthfulness of his statements, despite their complete fabrication. There is still research going on to figure out what confabulations really are and what causes them, but here we can look into what’s been done to tell us (1) why confabulations occur and what they entail, (2) what confabulations actually look like, and (3) how confabulations differ between amnesic and Alzheimer’s patients. Read more…

Categories: Memory Tags: ,

Are Pictures Really Worth A Thousand Words? When It Comes to Memory They Are

April 16th, 2017 3 comments

Have you ever looked at the coverage map for a telecommunications company, like Verizon, and wondered why a company would choose to spend the money on a colored picture instead of just presenting the information in the paragraph? I mean, wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper to just write it all out? Probably, but it wouldn’t be as effective.

Below is a paragraph that describes Verizon’s coverage in the U.S., and a corresponding image that displays the data. When the information is laid out in text, I bet that you, the consumer, would have a much harder time articulating and remembering the information. But by presenting the information in a picture (like that shown below), you can easily discern and remember the differences between the coverage of four telecommunication companies. Why would this be true? It has to do with the way that we encode, or initially learn, information. This is a perfect example of the picture superiority effect, the phenomenon in which people are better at remembering images than they are at remembering words (click here for a quick, fun video that explains this phenomenon).

“Among the four major wireless carriers, only Verizon’s 4G network is 100% 4G LTE the gold standard of wireless technology. Available in over 500 cities, Verizon 4G LTE covers almost 97% of the U.S. population. Experience the speed and power in more places.”–3G-speed-comparison_id53828

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A Trip Down Memory Lane: How Music Invokes Involuntary Autobiographical Memories In Alzheimer’s Patients

November 24th, 2015 No comments


In today’s increasingly connected, online world, our personal information — and the identities that come with it — is essentially up for grabs to even the most amateur of criminals. With new data breaches causing panic on a routine basis, identity theft is becoming more and more of a commonplace crime that leaves victims scrambling to pick up the pieces. However, there is one form of identity theft from which recovery is impossible. Over 5.3 million Americans in the United States alone have fallen victim to Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) (Alzheimer’s Association, 2015)– a ruthless and cunning identity thief. Its assault is fairly subtle as it slowly strips its victims of their sense of self, whisking away cognitive abilities such as language, problem-solving skills, attention, and – perhaps most salient of all – the memories that are so crucial to the maintenance of one’s identity and way of life.

Although “memory loss” is listed as a common symptom of AD, this term is particularly uninformative due to the presence of multiple, separate memory systems that serve a variety of different functions – the loss of which are characteristic of AD. For instance, deficits to working memory – or the system responsible for holding onto new, fleeting information long enough for further processing and encoding imagesinto memory storage – have been identified in AD patients. However, most of us would probably associate the vague term “memory loss” with long-term memory (LTM) – the brain’s storage system for permanent, lifetime memories. The memories stored within LTM can be broken down into distinct types, all of which can be affected by AD: procedural, semantic, and episodic memories. Procedural memories essentially involve instructions for common, frequently performed tasks. For instance, after finally mastering the task of riding a bike, we no longer have to actively recall the steps involved. Instead, we automatically run through the motions without much conscious effort. Semantic memory, on the other hand, involves what is essentially our long-term storage of more general knowledge – for example, the “random” facts that you can recall in order to answer Jeopardy questions. Read more…

Categories: Memory Tags: ,

Can’t Stop The Music: Individuals with Alzheimer’s are spared their memory for music

November 23rd, 2015 2 comments

I guess I jumped the gun and gave the answer away in my title, but… does the loss of memory due to diseases like Alzheimer’s affect memory for music?

Typically in research fields, losing something allows us to understand how that something works. In this case, losing memory as a result of Alzheimer’s disease provides information on what is cognitively impaired as well as what is not impaired. So does losing your memory due to dementia impair memory for music?  If evidence points to the answer no, perhaps there exists a unique memory system solely for music; but if evidence points to the answer yes, perhaps there still exists a unique memory system for music. That’s pretty confusing. I’ll make a valiant effort to explain what I mean by analyzing a psychological study. Kerer et al. (2013) seek to answer this main research question by examining explicit memory for music in individuals with and without cognitive impairment, including those with Alzheimer’s disease.


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Categories: Attention, Memory Tags: ,

Do You Ever Say You’re Going To Do Something And Never End Up Doing It?

November 20th, 2014 No comments


Have you ever wondered why when you plan to do something beforehand, you usually end up getting it done? For example, for something as minuscule as taking out the trash – the act of reminding yourself to do so or envisioning yourself taking out the trash (maybe don’t envision it…) is proven to help you complete tasks. This is called an implementation intention (II), i.e. the act of specifying when, where, and how you will perform a specific task or action. To carry out an II, you use an if-then structure, such as “If it rains, I will put on my raincoat.” The formation of II’s is confirmed to improve prospective memory, which is the ability to remember to perform a specific action at an intended time. As Peter Gollwitzer and Gabriele Oettingen write in their article (2013), “Successful goal pursuit requires solving both of two subsequent tasks: first, strongly committing to goals, and then, effectively implementing them.” However, what cognitive processes do you need to act on an II, and can people of all ages and conditions exhibit excellent prospective memory?

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Categories: Aging, Memory Tags: ,

Does the sound of music really help with memory?

April 28th, 2014 1 comment

Sound of Music

In the classic film The Sound of Music, Maria teaches the Von Trapp children primarily through song. If you don’t recall the words from the song that starts “Doe a deer a female deer…” you might be sorely missing an important part of your movie education. The song is pretty catchy after all. Once someone starts singing it, I can’t seem to get it out of my head. It turns out music can be helpful beyond just having something to dance to. It can really help us remember things. In fact, some studies may suggest that learning through song can actually enhance one’s memory. The most basic example I can think of is learning the alphabet.  The alphabet song is pretty catchy and helps kids to better remember it. An interesting question then is: how far this musical benefit extend? Can music potentially help older adults or even adults with Alzheimer’s remember more? In Simmons-Stern et al.’s “Music-based memory enhancement in Alzheimer’s Disease: Promise and Limitation” one of the central questions is: To what extent can music enhance memory function in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease (AD)?

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Categories: Aging, Memory Tags: , ,

Sentence Comprehension Deficits in Alzheimer’s Disease

December 13th, 2013 5 comments

Most people know that there are extreme cognitive deficits associated with DAT, otherwise known as Alzheimer ’s disease, but what is the nature of these struggles? What do those with DAT have the most trouble on, and what is the biggest cause of the troubles? It turns out that those with DAT have the biggest deficits in attentional tasks, and a lot of their memory issues stem from an inability to focus and maintain attention. In 1998 “Sentence Comprehension Deficits in Alzheimer’s Disease: A Comparison of Off-Line VS. On-Line Sentence Processing” looked at and tried to analyze the reasons behind memory deficits in DAT individuals.

The experimenters wanted to test whether the problems were stemming from a lack of syntactic knowledge, or the knowledge of how words form into sentences correctly, or from a working memory deficit. Working memory is the system that holds information in short term memory, deciding whether to attend to it, rehearse it, and transfer it into long term memory or to just throw it out. The better a person’s working memory, the better they can learn and pay attention to what they are looking at. Read more…

A drink a day keeps cognitive decline at bay…IF you’re one of these lucky people

December 8th, 2013 4 comments

With the holidays quickly approaching, many of us will be reuniting with family members at our grandparents’ houses. Someone will inadvertently spike the punch and then you’ll have grandparents, aunts, and uncles a little on the tipsy side. We’ve all heard that a glass of red wine each day is beneficial for your health but how true is this for the older folk in our family? Is it only red wine that has these effects? Several studies have suggested that it can actually be good for the elderly to have a few drinks per week. Alcohol is protective to the cardiovascular system due to its anti-inflammatory effects. This can in turn have positive effects on the health of the brain, which improves cognition (how quickly we think, how well we remember, etc.). Can alcohol be used as a sort of protective substance?

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Categories: Aging, Memory Tags: ,

Benefits of Social Engagement on Dementia Onset

December 2nd, 2013 2 comments

Picture 355

Ready to get engaged….socially? Social engagement, which is defined as the maintenance of many social connections and a high level of participation in social activities, could in fact reduce declining cognition. Why not go out with some friends a couple of times a week, enroll in a group exercise class, or get out and volunteer with your community? Results from a number of studies have shown that participating in cognitively stimulating activities and having satisfying relationships, as well as a large number of social contacts can reduce the risk of cognitive decline into the early onset of dementia. On the other side of the spectrum, a low level of social engagement may be a reliable indicator of the progression into dementia. Thus, social engagement may not only reduce the risk of cognitive decline, but may more importantly be a predictor of dementia onset.

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Categories: Aging Tags: ,

Dog: “My people are so well behaved.”

December 2nd, 2013 2 comments

We have all been affected by Alzheimer’s disease (AD), or a related disorder that results in declines in cognitive ability uncharacteristic of normal aging. For some the familiarity may be all too salient – a grandparent, uncle, or elementary school teacher. Others may have a more distant connection – perhaps they know a friend whose grandmother is struggling with the disease. My Aunt was recently diagnosed. We’re not particularly close, but the news has certainly taken an emotional toll on my extended family. Regardless of personal connection, AD is extremely prevalent, and as the population continues to gray, its impact is becoming increasingly widespread.

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Categories: Aging Tags: , ,