Tag Archives: memory

Can memory be restored in Alzheimer’s patients?


I recently read an article about researchers at the University of Minnesota finding a way to reverse memory loss in lab mice.  This piqued my curiosity since we have learned that memory is processed in several areas of the brain such as the prefrontal cortex, temporal and parietal lobes, cerebellum, amygdala, and hippocampus. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a hot topic of conversation with the large population of baby boomers being afflicted with this degenerative memory disease.  There is a plethora of research being conducted on AD, however, none have been as promising as the recently published work of Dr. Karen Ashe.

neuronsKaren Ashe, MD, an Alzheimer’s researcher at the University of Minnesota, has discovered two key components of dementia since 2005.  Her first research discovered a gene, Tau, which caused tangles in the brain associated with AD.  She found that when Tau goes errant it will cause cell death and memory loss.  In this finding they discovered the natural enzyme called Caspase-2 was causing Tau to behave abnormally.  Dr. Ashe’s latest research introduced a drug to cut the Tau enzymes in lab mice.  In doing so, the drug intervention repaired the damaged connections between neurons, which resulted in restored memory in the impaired mice.  Ultimately, the goal of Dr. Ashe’s research is to provide a drug that would block Caspase-2 and prevent the Tau gene from going awry, preventing cell death and memory loss.


So, what is Alzheimer’s disease and what effects does it have on the brain and memory? AD is an irreversible, progressive disorder in which neurons deteriorate, resulting in the loss of cognitive functions (alz.org, n.d.).  AD damages the hippocampus, making it difficult to form new memories and learn information.  Semantic memory, stored in the temporal lobe, and language decline along with the ability to recognize familiar faces.  Patients may have difficulty judging distance and three dimensions, recalled from the parietal lobe.  As the disease spreads to the frontal lobes, especially the prefrontal cortex, they may experience difficulty with organizing, planning, and decision making.  Procedural memory from the cerebellum, along with attention, language, movement, and emotional declines persist.  As the portions of the brain begin to atrophy due to degenerative destruction of the cells, the emotional memory from the amygdala is affected.  This destruction has been traced to two separate proteins.


The cells within a patient who was diagnosed with AD typically have tangles and plaques.  The tangles are the Tau proteins discussed earlier.  Plaques are deposits of protein fragments called beta-amyloid that build up in between nerve cells (alz.org, n.d.).  As we age, these plaques and tangles are normal. However, in AD patients they develop an excessive amount.  Eventually, this atrophy seems to cause cell death and disruption, ultimately affecting memory, judgment and reasoning, movement, coordination, and pattern recognition (alz.org, n.d).

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, AD is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States (alz.org, 2016).  This is why the latest research by Karen Ashe, M.D. is so important for the 5.4 million people who currently suffer from AD (alz.org, 2016.).  Although it may take a decade or more before this type of drug can be given to patients afflicted with this progressive disease, it is a step in a positive direction.


Lerner, M. (2016, October 11). Alzheimer’s researchers at University of Minnesota reverse memory loss in mice. Star Tribune, retrieved from http://www.startribune.com/alzheimer-s-researchers-at-university-of-minnesota-reverse-memory-loss-in-mice/396739231/

What is Alzheimer’s. (n.d.) retrieved from http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_what_is_alzheimers.asp#

2016 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. (2016) retrieved from http://www.alz.org/facts/overview.asp

Why do we forget: Even if we study?

I pondered what to write my blog about, as I have always been fascinated about Psychology, even as a little girl.  Now what caught my eye was the section on Psychologist, Hermann Ebbinghaus, who was one of the first to study forgetting and wanted to determine how are memory is and the relation to forgetting what we try to learn.  Good question right?

I have often wondered why I study so hard at times and seem to really know the material, especially if it is of a subject or topic I really like or am interested in knowing more about, but then somehow either forget key facts or maybe even a huge chunk of the material I thought I had down pat; everything is blank and I am unable to recall the material I tried to learn.  What was the reason? Is there something that contributed to it that helped me forget more easily?

The article, “Forgetting”, in Very Well, speaks of Ebbinghaus and his published findings in “Memory:  A Contribution to Experimental Psychology” in 1885.  His results were documented and was deemed the “Ebbinghaus forgetting curve”.  As he learned from testing his self for the experiment that “information is often lost very quickly after learned”.


Cues can help you recall things from memory.  A good example, my Art History professor told us on taking notes in class to retain memory, was to do a quick and simple sketch of an art work, with lil key notes on important facets of it.  It will job your memory, or a key word.  Being able to recall things from a vast of newly learned materials can be difficult, and definitely can be forgotten quickly.

The article continues to mention on reasons on why we forget.  Distractions, something that has definitely impeded my retaining material from time-to-time.  Another thing it mentioned that correlates with Ebbinghaus’s Forgetting Curve, is “The Interference Theory of Forgetting”  It lists an example if you were asked what you ate for dinner last Tuesday, but you might not recall or have difficulty, but would probably more easily remember if it were more immediate, like the next morning.  As more time elapses, it is harder to recall from memory.  Similar things to remember are what it means by the “Interference Theory”.  Unique things are more likely to be remembered even with a lapse of time.

It is difficult to know what exactly creates the cause between memory and forgetting; it could be a multitude of reasons from interference, to new information, to time delays, so knowing what the main contributing factors are would not be easy to test or determine.

Definitely, as Ebbinghaus briefly indicated from his own tests, that when learning new material, or studying and then going to sleep, there was no drop in forgetting, as shown in the “Studying before Sleep” article, by Dr. Russ Dewey, 2007.  I would definitely have to agree with this, even if Ebbinghaus “reject some of his own data”.  By studying and then directly going to sleep, unless you suffer from insomnia, anxiety or other factors, you have no other interference with your memory.  You are asleep.  It is able to be restored right after the learning took place.


I personally have tried many ways, gaps before going to sleep, time in between, repetitive, but what seems to enable me to retain more and fully, is studying and then immediately going to sleep.  I never really looked at the other things that contributed to the “Why” we forget part before, but definitely delays and lapses of time in between learning and other interference or distractions cause forgetting and/or inability to recall or store the material or retain it properly.

With that being said, I know what I will be doing before the next quiz, going straight to bed after I study! 🙂


Works Cited:

https://www.verywell.com/lesson-six-human-memory-2795294, “Forgetting”, 2016, About, Inc.

http://www.psywww.com/intropsych/ch06_memory/studying_before_sleep.html, Studying Before Sleep, 2007, Dr. Russ Dewey,