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Effects of dementia diseases in the brain and family understanding

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The Michigan Great Lakes Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association encourages all residents to become involved in seasonal sporting, walking and other events to support research and education funding for dementia diseases.

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Understanding brain function and how Alzheimer's and other dementia diseases affect personalities and lifestyle are important to quality of life and family relationships.

Degenerative brain diseases are Alzheimer's and Lewy Body, Parkinson, Pick's, Vascular, Huntington, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Frontal Lobe and others. The difference is in the part of the brain where the information originates and is ultimately affected.. The processing and storage input is the same.

The first sign of dementia most likely will start with short term memory loss in an area that continues to escalate. In Alzheimer's, memory loss can be slowed down and sometimes stabilized in the early stages. Reversible dementias, such as brain tumors, depression, dehydration, surgery, metabolic disorders, side effects, infections, nutritional deficiences, circulatory disorders, substance abuse, head trauma, toxic factors, and others, can sometimes be halted and methods used to heal the damage. However, as with all diseases, early detection is important.

While everyone forgets from time to time, people with a brain disease will begin to have functional difficulties that gradually takes away abilities to deal with life.

Often people with dementia protect their independence and consider others intruders and enemies that suggest that they need help in any way. Denial is the persistant and trust becomes a problem for them.

Processing information in the Entorhinal Cortex

Sometimes, members of the family have a hard time understanding that the person with memory loss is not being inattentive or rude. In fact, the inner portions of the brain between the two temporal lobes that controls hearing, seeing, logic and assimilating new information is deteriorating. Damage in the entorhinal cortex is preventing appropriate sorting and bringing together information and understanding. If the input is not gathered properly, it will disappear from memory.

Stored memory in the Hippo-campus

A normal brain will receive information from the senses sent to the various lobes and assimilate in the entorhinal cortex, between the two frontal lobes, and pass it on through for storage to the original section of the brain by the hippo-campus. It is much the same as with a computer that processes the information through the ram, (random memory), and takes it to a processing program that sorts it and then stores it on the hard drive when the operator gives the save command. All components must be working correctly to ensure correct processing and storage.

Short term memory loss and long term retention

Lost retention is especially frustrating for the spouse of a person with dementia. There is often conflict when the afflicted spouse remembers the past vividly, but cannot remember a trip to the movies the night before. Persons with early onset dementia can recite tiny details of a childhood vacation, but may not be able to remember to lock the door when leaving the house or to take medications on time.

Normal aging versus the damaged brain

Normally, as we age the brain loses its ability to repair damage in the processing area of the brain where new brain cells build new memories. As it is with all cells in the aging or diseased body, neurons are lost faster than new ones are replaced.

Older persons with normal brains or with reversible dementia may be able to retrain the brain by learning new ways of doing things. The learning process may be slower than it is with the younger or normal brain, but new skills can be processed in the entorhinal and sent to the hippo-campus to store.

The diseased Alzheimer's and other irreversible brain diseases can no longer learn new skills. As the Alzheimer's disease progresses to a stage 3 and 4, the hippo-campus and gradually the back of the brain in the parietal is also involved and all memory becomes impossible.

Research and education about dementia diseases can lead to early detection and treatment for a better quality of life and better family relationships.

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Resources

Alzheimer's Association_What is Alzheimer's

Michigan Great Lakes Chapter Community Highlights

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