People with early Alzheimer’s fail to tell what’s important from what’s not

May 4th, 2009 - 1:48 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, May 4 (ANI): When it comes to learning new things, Alzheimer’s patients, even with emerging symptoms, find it harder to separate what’s important from what’s not, according to a new study.

Such evidence of early impact may help clinicians to train people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s to remember high-value information better,

Remembering what’s most important is central to daily life- be it going to the grocery store and leaving shopping list at home, people want to remember milk and bread, if not the jam. Or when packing for a trip, one would like to remember wallet and tickets more than the slippers or belt.

In the study, the researchers recruited participants from the Washington University in St. Louis Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centre, and they included 109 healthy older adults (average age of almost 75), 41 people with very mild (very early) Alzheimer’s disease (average age of almost 76), 13 people with mild (early) Alzheimer’s (average age of almost 77), and 35 younger adults (all 25 or under, average age of almost 20).

The researchers asked participants to study and learn neutral words that were randomly assigned different point values.

When asked to recall the items, participants were told to maximize the total value.

It was found that all participants, even those with Alzheimer’s, recalled more of high-value than low-value items.

However, the Alzheimer’s groups were significantly less efficient than their healthy age peers at remembering items according to their value.

This meant that they no longer maximized learning and memory, which in healthy people are fairly efficient processes.

The researchers hypothesized that Alzheimer’s disease makes it harder for people to encode what they learn in a strategic way.

Because encoding is the first step in long-term memory, it affects their ability to remember things according to their value.

The study has paved way for improved memory training, and according to the authors, people with early-stage Alzheimer’s might remember important information better by learning to be more strategic and selective when encoding high-value information, even though it comes at the expense of neglecting less-important information.

The study is published in the latest issue of Neuropsychology. (ANI)

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