Scientists Assert that Episodic Memory Loss is a Sign of Alzheimer's

The so-called "senior moment" where names, faces, and recent experiences such as a simple story are forgotten, may be a sign of Alzheimer's and not "normal" memory loss or a side-effect of aging.

A new study at the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Research Center in Chicago found that both subjects diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease and their counterparts without the disease had significant build-up of amyloid tangles, clumps of protein that are believed to be a primary cause of cognitive failure. Those with Alzheimer's Disease scored lower on cognitive tests.

However, those without the disease appeared to have developed a cognitive reserve that mitigated and shielded their brains from the negative effect of the protein accumulation.

The study suggests that games, crosswords, puzzles, social activities and other cognitive exercises may be responsible for the "cognitive reserve" in people who show no symptoms of decline, and may be helpful in delaying its onset.

The study is being published today in the journal Neurology.

"The results provide evidence in support of the idea that some type of neural reserve can allow a large number of older persons to tolerate a significant amount of Alzheimer’s pathology without manifesting obvious dementia," said study author David A. Bennett, MD, of the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago.

"This study questions the acceptability of minor episodic memory loss in older adults as 'normal'," said Carol F. Lippa, MD, who wrote an editorial in the same issue of Neurology. "Maybe this early decline in episodic memory precedes mild cognitive impairment and should be the target of research efforts in the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease."

The study was supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging.

Can you recognize pictures that you have just seen? Or is your episodic memory in question? That is one of the hallmarks of Memorypix from cognitivelabs, which concentrates on episodic memory, or recall of something previously seen.

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