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New Post: New Post: Bringing Back Memories to Alzheimers Patients http://buff.ly/1WWEEj0 http://buff.ly/1WWEEj3
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Memory loss is one of the most well-known and heartbreaking consequences of Alzheimer’s disease. As Alzheimer’s starts to develop, episodic memory starts to decline. This means that the memory of personal experiences and events, and of the time, place and emotional context of those experiences starts to fade.
Memory requires the ability to encode, consolidate, store and retrieve information. Whenever one of these processes is compromised, memories are inaccessible, either because they were never encoded or stored in the first place, or because, even though they’re in there somewhere, we’re unable to access them.
What has been unclear, in Alzheimer’s patients, is what part of memory is disrupted. Since recent experiences are the first to be forgotten, the ability to store new information has been regarded as the most compromised aspect of memory mechanisms in Alzheimer’s patients, at least in early stages. Some studies have supported this hypothesis, but this is not an easy thing to determine beyond doubt with the tools we currently have. How can we be sure if a memory was not stored, or if it is just inaccessible? It’s not easy to bypass the process of memory recall to check if a memory is stored.
Studies in animals have provided invaluable insights into the neurological mechanisms of memory impairment in Alzheimer’s disease. A new study recently published in Nature sheds more light into the mechanisms of memory impairment associated with Alzheimer’s. Most importantly, this study brings new hope to the possibility of recovering lost memories.
Are memories absent, or just unreachable?
Using a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease, a group of researchers from the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory set out to determine whether or not memories are still stored but just inaccessible.
The researchers designed a very simple yet enlightening experiment: two groups of mice genetically engineered to develop Alzheimer’s symptoms, one with early stage Alzheimer’s and another with an advanced version of the disease, along with a group of healthy mice, were placed in a chamber where they received a shock to the foot.
When placed in the same chamber an hour after the initial foot shock, both healthy and early-stage Alzheimer’s mice showed fear, whereas advanced-stage Alzheimer’s mice did not. This demonstrated that, unlike advanced-stage Alzheimer’s mice, those with early-stage symptoms could still encode and store memories on a short-term time frame.
However, when the animals were placed in the same chamber 24 hours after the initial shock, only the healthy mice showed signs of fear. Mice with Alzheimer’s symptoms did not appear to remember the foot shock, suggesting that, although that new memory had been stored, these mice were now unable to retrieve it. It’s as if they couldn’t find it anymore.
Bringing memories back to light
The researchers then studied the possibility of recovering those memories in mice with early-stage Alzheimer’s. First off, they used molecular, genetic and optogenetic methods to identify the neuronal cells which hold traces (engrams) of that fearful memory of the foot shock, and tagged them with a light-sensitive molecule. Then, using blue light, they stimulated those specific cells in the hippocampus that drive memory recall, the memory engram cells. This method had already been shown to allow the retrieval of lost memories in other contexts of memory loss.
The authors showed that blue-light stimulation could indeed bring back the memory of the foot shock. The direct activation of the cells that were holding the memory allowed them to retrieve it as effectively as in healthy rats.
This study also showed that these memory-holding neurons have structural changes that affect their communication with other cells. These changes impair their ability to receive sensory information from other cells, which would act as a cue for memory recall. In other words, the memory is stored, but when the mice is placed in that chamber were the foot shock happened, the sight of the chamber does not trigger the fearful memory as it otherwise would. The blue-light stimulation acts as a replacement for that sensory trigger of memory.
From this study, we can infer that new memories may also still be formed in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease in humans, but that their retrieval may be compromised. Importantly, this memory loss may be overcome using brain stimulation. Although this technology is still far from being applicable to humans, this study brings new optimism to Alzheimer’s disease therapy.
Liu X, Ramirez S, Pang PT, Puryear CB, Govindarajan A, Deisseroth K, & Tonegawa S (2012). Optogenetic stimulation of a hippocampal engram activates fear memory recall. Nature, 484 (7394), 381-5 PMID: 22441246
Roy DS, Arons A, Mitchell TI, Pignatelli M, Ryan TJ, & Tonegawa S (2016). Memory retrieval by activating engram cells in mouse models of early Alzheimer’s disease. Nature, 531 (7595), 508-12 PMID: 26982728
Ryan TJ, Roy DS, Pignatelli M, Arons A, & Tonegawa S (2015). Memory. Engram cells retain memory under retrograde amnesia. Science (New York, N.Y.), 348 (6238), 1007-13 PMID: 26023136
Tonegawa S, Liu X, Ramirez S, & Redondo R (2015). Memory Engram Cells Have Come of Age. Neuron, 87 (5), 918-31 PMID: 26335640
Tonegawa S, Pignatelli M, Roy DS, & Ryan TJ (2015). Memory engram storage and retrieval. Current opinion in neurobiology, 35, 101-9 PMID: 26280931
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Psychology is in crisis. This scientists striking confession explains how we got here. http://buff.ly/1UYRdLq
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Meri Wallace LCSW Teaching Children ToleranceTeach your young child positve values about accepting differences.
You're standing in the supermarket check-out line with your 3-year old when he suddenly points to another little boy sitting in a shopping cart and asks in a loud voice, “Mommy. Why is that boy's skin brown? As heads turn, you become embarrassed. You worry, “What kind of parent do they think I am?” or, “How should I answer?” What's even more disturbing, perhaps, is the nature of your child's query, and you wonder, “Why is he asking such a thing? Is he prejudiced already?”
What I tell parents, when they ask me about situations like this, is that preschoolers aren't making value judgments with such comments. They may notice differences in appearance, but they're generally innocent of stereotypes held by adults. Instead, it's their natural curiousity about the world and their desire to define themselves as individuals, that's at the root of young children's questions about skin color and other differences.
Your child's tender age shouldn't stop you from teaching him some positive values about tolerance, however. In fact, this is an ideal time-when your preschooler is first learning how people should behave with each other and can absorb your values- to help him see that the world is a much richer place because of it's diversity.
Without your active and early involvement, your child can go beyond imitative behavior to actually believing the prejudices and stereotypes of the people in his environment and in the media. Here's how to start.
Set a good example. Kids learn from observing your interactions with others. If you're respectful to all people, your children will follow suit. It's important to confront any of your own stereotypical thoughts head on, then work hard to change them by monitoring your everyday thoughts, speech and actions.
Respond to negative remarks. If a close family member or a neighbor tells an ethnic joke or makes a racial slur in front of your child, confront the issue immediately. For example, you might tell the person, “When you talk like that it makes me uncomfortable, or “Please don't use that word again.”As your child observes you taking a stand, he'll learn to use phrases like these and start to speak out against prejudice. If you say nothing, your child might think you agree with the joke or slur.
Expose your child to different cultures. The friendships your child has, can have a lasting effect. Consider enrolling your youngster in a school or child-care program with kids from lots of different cultures. Fun to read books that happen to feature multiracial characters are another way to help your child see the world in all it's glorious colors. There are many good books that do a good job of explaining prejudice such as, “We're different We're the same”, by Bobbie Jane Kates. You can even plan family outings to festivals and museums that celebrate and teach about different cultures.
Bring the message home. When your child makes an insensitive remark, remind him of how he feels when he isn't treated well by his friends and ask him “How do you think that boy felt when none of the kids would play with him because he couldn't speak English. When he is a little older you can explain intolerance in this way: “Sometimes people are afraid of someone who is different. They act mean to this person because they feel uncomfortable, which is wrong. What they should do, is try to get to know that person better.”
Treat your youngster with respect. If your youngster feels good about herself and isconfident about her place in the world, she will be less likely to be fearful of people who are different from her. A child who feels secure in your love and has a positive self-imagewill have no need to put someone else down to feel valuable or powerful.
If you take these steps, you will help create a better world for generations to come.