Posts Tagged ‘Alzheimer’s’

Can Simple Cognitive Tests be Key to the Fight to End Alzheimer’s Disease?

April 24th, 2022 No comments

1 in every 9 older adults (65 years and older) is currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, a type of dementia that affects memory, thinking, and behavior. But the numbers do not tell the whole story. The losses faced by these patients cannot be boxed into statistical data. Patients start to forget their memories, their loved ones… who they are! As explained by Gerda Saunders, a writer with dementia,  she began to feel like a stranger to herself. There are many forms of dementia, but Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause, and still, there are no available treatments that stop or slow the progression of the disease: the medications just treat the symptoms. But these treatments are based on early diagnosis of the disease, and the visible signs of Alzheimer’s usually appear years after the disease started developing. So early diagnosis can be really hard. Alzheimer’s disease can stay hidden for years! When we perceive the changes, it is usually too late. But that is not necessarily a cause for despair. Simple cognitive tests can be the key to an early and accessible diagnosis!

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Confabulations: I am honestly (not) lying to you

November 26th, 2019 No comments

Have you ever told someone a story about something that happened in your life only for them to reply with, “That didn’t happen… Quit lying”? Now, have you ever asked someone a question only to be answered with a story that didn’t quite add up? In those instances, did you swear you were telling the truth? Did they? Maybe you both were but somewhere along the way, a couple details drifted away from actuality and you honestly didn’t know it. Maybe you were confabulating.

Confabulations occur when a person describes or talks about their memories that contain false or changed information without the conscious awareness that their memories did not actually happen. Sometimes these errors in memory are mistaken for lies, but it is important to note that there is a difference. Lies are intentional and often used to fool others, while confabulations are completely unintentional as the person retelling their memory, believes that their memory is true.
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I can’t remember her name… is this a sign of dementia?! The tip of the tongue effect and aging

April 24th, 2018 No comments

It’s a parasite. Small. Drills its way into unknowing individuals’ feet and proceeds to circulate their bloodstream. Common in areas with poor sanitation. I know this parasite from my global public health presentation from just last year. It starts with an ‘S’, maybe even a shhh sound? How could I not remember this? “Schistosomiasis”, my professor stated after what seemed like several frustrating minutes of attempting to recall the name for this parasite.

Why couldn’t I remember a word with which I am very familiar? One with which I spent hours researching on various databases, the CDC, even Wikipedia? It’s called the tip of the tongue (TOT) phenomenon, and if you’re anything like me, you likely experience this ever so maddening effect more frequently than you’d like. I’ve long since wondered about this phenomenon as whenever it happens to my Mum, she claims that she’s “losing [her] marbles” or is developing dementia. Does this mean that I’m developing dementia, too? Cognitively speaking, what is going on when you experience a TOT? But seriously, what is a TOT, anyways? Read more…

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 4 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…