Archive for December, 2009

Dementia is a general term that is often misunderstood. Dementia refers to mental deterioration to the point that one can no longer do higher level mental tasks like doing a checkbook, using a computer, or preparing a meal. In more severe forms of dementia, one may no longer be able to tend to personal needs such as bathing, toileting, or changing clothes. In other words, dementia refers to mental decline where one can no longer function independently (i.e., needs at least some level of external care). Dementia refers to the severity of the mental deterioration. It is not a state of being. Dementia is caused by a loss of skills (i.e., brain function). There are many possible causes of dementia. For example, many who develop a progressive form of dementia have a heavy burden of amyloid plaques and tau tangles. […]

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People come to me to determine if they have significant changes in memory. However, memory is a multifaceted series of skills — for example, knowing how to drive, knowing your birth date, knowing a body of facts, knowing how to get places, etc. The most critical type of memory to the understanding of most dementias is short-term memory. Short-term memory is not a time but rather a process whereby new experiences or information are stored for later use. For example, someone with a good short-term memory can read a book once and recite all of the facts. Someone with an average short-term memory may need to review the material a few times. Someone with a poor short term-memory may have to review the information 50 times. Short-term memory loss is the hallmark feature of Alzheimer’s disease. We owe much of […]

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