Memory and Altzheimer’s

 

From: Frank Gue <frank.gue@cogeco.ca>
Subject: Memory – “Diagnosing Dementia”, March 15
Filename: Economist re Alzheimer’s March 14
Date: 26 March, 2014
To: Letters, The Economist, London, UK

Dear Ed:

This is a suggestion for a subject for one of your excellent science and tech editors:

It’s commonplace to note that loss of memory is an unwelcome development with advancing age; but there is an interesting complexity that is worthy of study.

I’m talking to someone. I need a word. Not an unusual word – just a word. I can’t find it. Embarrassing pause. Maybe I find it but sometimes I don’t. Or I find it an hour later – or a week later, as it pops up unbidden. My brain was obviously working in it all this time, unbeknownst to me.

In conversation, someone uses that word. I recall it and fit it into the context instantly – in milliseconds or microseconds – without giving conscious thought.

So it’s clearly not a memory problem – the word was there all the time. It’s an access problem. And the access problem is two-way: quick and instantaneous incoming, slow, error-prone and clumsy outgoing; also a clear demo of the brain’s ability to identify a problem and work on it somewhere far in the background.

 

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