The human brain contains billions of neurons that communicate with each other via many different chemical compounds known as neurotransmitters. As adults become older, some of the neurons may shrink or experience damage secondary to free radicals, high blood pressure, or elevated LDL cholesterol. The changes that occur during the aging process may affect the complex memory centers of the brain. However, the neuronal damage that occurs with Alzheimer’s is much more severe, progressive, and extensive. Here are the types of memory Alzheimer’s disease commonly affects.
Short-Term and Long-Term Memory
The process of creating memories requires two steps. Initially, new information enters the hippocampus region of the brain, which is called short-term memory. From there, the information moves to other areas of the brain where the data remains stored until later retrieved, which is long-term memory. Researchers understand the hippocampus is the first region damaged during the development of Alzheimer’s. As such, the region becomes incapable of retaining new information. The hippocampus then has no information or memory to transmit for long-term storage. The damage incurred here is the reason seniors with Alzheimer’s commonly repeat comments, phrases, questions, or conversations. They simply don’t have the ability to remember information from one moment to the next. As Alzheimer’s spreads to other brain areas, other types of memory are affected.
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Episodic memories take place in the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, and temporal lobes. While the hippocampus remains responsible for gathering and transferring new information, the other regions keep memories organized as they occur in time. The memories are categorized in a sequence similar to the progression of one television episode to the next. However, when these areas are damaged by Alzheimer’s, the memory timeline becomes skewed, which may be one of the reasons seniors believe older memories happened more recently.
Semantic memories also take place in the temporal lobes and multiple regions of the frontal cortex. The memories involve facts and general knowledge. The information stored here includes the names of people, places, and things. The data is also categorized in terms of relationships. Thus, when the regions are damaged, seniors can no longer recall the names of living or inanimate objects in specific categories. They also lose the ability to recognize relationships between people.
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These memories are formed in the cerebellum and enable people to learn and retain the knowledge and skills needed to perform a particular task automatically. Examples of some of the many procedural memories include riding a bike, dancing, playing an instrument, and typing. This type of memory is typically the last to be affected by Alzheimer’s.
The prefrontal cortex is responsible for working memory, which makes it possible for someone to concentrate, pay attention, and form short-term memories. Working memory enables seniors to complete tasks that require multiple steps. However, when this type of memory is damaged by Alzheimer’s, older adults are no longer able to complete lengthy tasks without guidance.
If you’re the primary caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, you don’t have to go through it alone. Without the right assistance, Alzheimer’s can be challenging for seniors and their families to manage. If you’re looking for professional Alzheimer’s care, Rhode Island Home Care Assistance provides high-quality care aging adults and their families can count on. All of our hourly and live-in caregivers are trained to help seniors with Alzheimer’s live happier and healthier lives, and we also provide specialized dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care. For compassionate, reliable in-home care, trust the experienced professionals from Home Care Assistance. Reach out to one of our dedicated Care Managers today at (401) 284-0979 to learn about the high quality of our in-home Alzheimer’s care services.