Most people develop memory loss with age. But psychologists are finding that these problems are often correctable.
People panic when they feel their memories slipping. The 68 year old congressman was frantic. Long proud of his ability to remember the names, the children's name and even the birthdays of important constituents, he now made embarrassing mistakes. His memory clearly wasn't what it used to be. Devastated, he sought help at a memory clinic near Washington. Could these memory lapses be reversed? Was his career in jeopardy? God forbid, was he in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease?
People Panic When They Feel Their Memories Slipping
Highly educated people in demanding jobs tend to panic when they feel their memories slipping. Psychologist Thomos H. Crook, founder and director of the Memory Assessment Clinic, headquartered in Bethesda, says, "We've had doctors, lawyers, business executives and other active people come to us for help. They are acutely aware of these deficits, and they're terrified."
Recent research is helping to claim such fears. While it's true that most people in their 50's and 60's begin to experience a decline in their ability to remember things, it is now known that this decline is rarely a sigh of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease. In a majority of cases, memory loss is a result of normal changes in the brain, as well as psychological changes that typically come with aging. The good news is that, for most people, there is ways of rejuvenating memory.
Drugs Improve Memory In Animals, Including Primates
More than a dozen drugs have been shown in U. S. Labs to improve memory in animals, including primates. Clinical trials with human volunteers are now under ay, and results are expected in a few years. But for now, there's only one proven method for reversing memory loss: training. Just as physical exercise counteracts the effects of aging on the body, mental exercises help keep the memory relatively fit. Studies have shown that these techniques are extremely effective if a person is sufficiently motivated.
Many Who Have Trouble Remembering Conclude They Have Alzheimer's
Many people who have trouble remembering things jump to the conclusion that they have Alzheimer's, a disease which slowly saps the memory, eventually leading to severe confusion and disorientation. But epidemiological studies have shown that people between the ages of 65 and 75 have only a 2 percent chance of developing the disease. That means 98 out of 100 people who at age of 65 find themselves forgetting names, shopping lists and fact in magazine articles have normal, healthy brains.
Neuroscientists now view learning and memory as a dynamic process that sculpts and re-sculpts the connections between nerve cells,, called neurons, in the brain. Every time a memory is laid down, some of these cells under go molecular changes that either strengthen or weaken their connection with other neurons. When a person forgets something, it most likely means that some the connections have been weakened or broken.