Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that causes memory loss. However, the human brain is home to several different memory systems, and Alzheimer’s affects them differently. Ahead, learn about the types of memory that are impacted by Alzheimer’s disease.
The episodic memory system is responsible for memories of past events and personal experiences. It’s used to recall both recent events and far distant experiences, but for seniors with Alzheimer’s, recollecting recent memories tends to be the first and greatest challenge.
Episodic memories are stored in the temporal lobe, which is responsible for visual memory retention, language recognition, and sensory processing. The hippocampus, one of the key structures in the temporal lobe, is one of the first brain regions damaged by Alzheimer’s. Because the hippocampus consolidates short-term memories and transforms them into long-term memories, damage to this area has a negative impact on episodic memory. If this brain region is damaged, seniors may have a difficult time remembering where they parked their cars or when they’re supposed to show up for doctor appointments.
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While Alzheimer’s doesn’t leave the procedural memory system untouched, this type of memory tends to experience the least damage. Procedural memory is responsible for unconscious automatic skills, such as riding a bike or typing.
Several parts of the brain are involved in the acquisition and retrieval of procedural memories, including the basal ganglia, the limbic system, and the cerebellum. Because Alzheimer’s has minimal impact on the cerebellum, many seniors with Alzheimer’s are able to perform tasks associated with procedural memory. With continued repetition, seniors with Alzheimer’s may even be able to acquire new procedural memories.
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The retention of general knowledge—which can range from facts to broader concepts—is governed by the semantic memory system. Semantic memory and episodic memory are both considered declarative memory systems. While episodic memory stores personal details, such as memories of wedding days and graduations, semantic memory is responsible for remembering facts, from the Pythagorean theorem to the date of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Many of the brain regions that store episodic memories—such as the temporal lobe and the hippocampus—are also involved in the retention and storage of semantic memory. As these areas are damaged by Alzheimer’s, seniors may have a difficult time recalling previously learned information and learning new facts.
Declarative, semantic, and procedural memory are all long-term memory systems. When information is stored in one of these systems, it can theoretically remain there indefinitely. Working memory, in contrast, is the brain’s primary short-term memory system. It’s where information is temporarily stored so it can be processed by other parts of the brain, which occurs for the most part in the brain’s prefrontal cortex. As Alzheimer’s affects this brain region, seniors may have difficulty with short-term information retention as well as focusing and paying attention. Without the right assistance, Alzheimer’s can be challenging for seniors and their families to handle. If you’re looking for professional Alzheimer’s care, Naples Assisting Hands Home Care provides high-quality care aging adults and their families can count on. All of our caregivers are trained to help seniors with Alzheimer’s live happier and healthier lives, and we also provide specialized dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care. If your loved one needs assistance with the challenges of aging, reach out to one of our knowledgeable, compassionate Care Managers today.