Memories Fade, But Emotions Remain

May 7, 2010 at 11:23 am Leave a comment

Image by ba1969 on Stock.Xchng One of the biggest concerns for Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers is the worry that visits from  loved ones don’t matter,  that the memory loss robs them of the kindnesses, comforts and care that their friends and family try to offer them.   Patients hate the idea that they’ll lose the knowledge of those they love, and caregivers fear that their efforts are pointless exercises.

But a new study suggests that those visits and small kindnesses definitely matter – because even when the direct memory of the visit fades, the warm feelings from it remain.

Amnesia patients (unable to form new memories because of damage to a specific part of the brain) were shown film clips that triggered happy or sad emotions.  As expected, the patients were unable to recall the specifics of the films because of their impairment, the emotions stuck with them.

While the study was done on a very specific type of amnesiac memory impairment, a very similar impairment happens in Alzheimer’s patients, suggesting that the finding applies to many age-related memory impairments, as well.

What does this mean for patients and family?

Even when the ability to remember fades, the person’s emotional life continues.  Those visits, phone calls, trips out for lunch, and gifts? They matter, beyond just those few fleeting moments.  Those visits and small kindnesses can improve the quality of life beyond the visit itself.  It also means that the attentiveness of caregivers matters – and that traumatic or painful experiences, too, will linger and affect quality of life.

And it reinforces the idea that positive social contact is important for brain health, even in those already suffering from the ill-effects.

But the deeper meaning here is that even though memory fades, the person and their feelings, their loves and pains,  still exist.  And in the end, what matters more – knowing what we had for lunch, or the lingering feelings that spring from sharing a meal with someone we love?

For more information on the study
and it’s implications for Alzheimer’s, check out:
Science Daily: Patients Patients With Amnesia Still Feel Emotions

Entry filed under: Be Socially Active!, Purpose. Connection & Spirit. Tags: , , .

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A healthy mind and brain is key to a healthy, active life. Come along for the ride as we explore the basics of brain health, with topics including:
  • Physical Exercise
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Authored by Tori Deaux
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