Monday, April 25, 2011

Normal Memory Loss

Not all memory loss is Alzheimer's or a related dementia. Let's repeat that for emphasis. Not all memory loss is Alzheimer's or a related dementia. With aging comes a degree of memory loss that is a normal, natural consequence of growing older. A recent study done by Dr. Adam Gazzaley, a neurologist at the University of California at San Francisco, shows the differences in brain activity between people 20-30 years old vs people 60-80 years old.
Dr. Gazzaley’s study looked at a type of memory called working memory, which is considered a precious and finite resource that people tap into when they are engaged in a task, like doing a work project or having a conversation. The study did not look at the effects of multitasking on long-term memory. However, Dr. Gazzaley said there was a relationship between people’s ability to develop long-term memories and the amount of time they spend focused on a particular experience. In other words, if interruptions make it difficult for older people to remember what they were doing in the short run, it also could hurt their ability to record those experiences over the long run, he said.

But Dr. Gazzaley said the study sheds more light on the reasons that short-term memories seem suddenly to go empty, as when someone stands in front the refrigerator, forgetting what it is he went to get.

“Events such as these increase in frequency as we get older — the classic senior moment. We now understand that this is not necessarily a memory problem per se, but often the result of an interaction between attention and memory,” he said. “For example, a phone call or text that interrupts us on the way to the refrigerator will negatively impact our ability to remember what we were going to the refrigerator to get in the first place.”

So the next time you experience one of these "senior moments", relax and realize that it may very well be a normal, expected reaction to our hectic and cluttered lifestyle!

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