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Early Alzheimer’s Has Impact on Memory

A new study has discovered that even very early in Alzheimer’s disease, people become less efficient at separating important from less important information.

Knowing this, clinicians may be able to train people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s to remember high-value information better, according to a report in the May issue of Neuropsychology, published by the American Psychological Association.

Remembering what’s most important is central to daily life. For example, if you went to the grocery store but left your shopping list at home, you’d at least want to remember the milk and bread, if not the jam. Or, when packing for a trip, you’d want to remember your wallet and tickets more than your slippers or belt.

Participants in the study were recruited from the Washington University in St. Louis Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. They included 109 healthy older adults (average age of almost 75), 41 people with very mild (very early) Alzheimer’s disease (average age of almost 76), 13 people with mild (early) Alzheimer’s (average age of almost 77), and 35 younger adults (all 25 or under, average age of almost 20).

The researchers asked participants to study and learn neutral words that were randomly assigned different point values. When asked to recall the items, participants were asked to maximize the total value. All participants, even those with Alzheimer’s, recalled more high-value than low-value items.

However, the Alzheimer’s groups were significantly less efficient than their healthy age peers at remembering items according to their value. It meant they no longer maximized learning and memory, which in healthy people are fairly efficient processes.

The authors speculated that Alzheimer’s disease makes it harder for people to encode what they learn in a strategic way. Because encoding is the first step in long-term memory, this affects their ability to remember things according to their value.

The findings also demonstrate that value-directed learning stays intact in healthy aging. Older adults might not remember as much as younger adults, but when healthy, they remain able to distinguish what’s important.

This research suggests the potential for improved memory training.

People with early-stage Alzheimer’s might remember important information better by learning to be more strategic and selective when encoding high-value information, even though it comes at the expense of neglecting less-important information, the authors said.

Source: American Psychological Association

Early Alzheimer’s Has Impact on Memory

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Early Alzheimer’s Has Impact on Memory. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 27, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2009/05/06/early-alzheimers-has-impact-on-memory/5739.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.