Entries in Memory Loss (16)


Tips to Help You Improve Your Memory

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It's Monday morning and you're about to head out the door to go to work when you realize that your keys are missing.

In a panic, you search your whole house, turning over pillows, opening drawers and even checking the trash can, only to later find out that your keys were in your bag -- where they have been all along.

As frustrating as they can be, moments like these are pretty common and probably brought on by stress-induced memory loss.

ABC's Katie Couric spoke to Dr. Gayatri Devi about all these little lapses of memory we experience, how to prevent them and when they may be a sign of something more serious.

Devi, a neurologist and director of New York Memory and Healthy Aging Services, suggests that simple mind exercises can help, particularly ones that utilize a very different part of the brain than you're accustomed to using.  If you sit at a computer analyzing data all day, do something physical or manual to wake up the rest of your brain.

Humans begin to experience memory loss at the early stages of childhood.  It is necessary to forget things, Devi says, otherwise the memory would overflow like your inbox.  Forgetting unnecessary pieces of information allows space in the memory for new and more pertinent material.

Aging also triggers some memory loss, and menopause can, as well.  Women experiencing menopause may have trouble remembering names, words or where they placed things.

A healthy diet and keeping all aspects of the brain engaged are critical tools to keep one's memory sharp, but sleep is important, as well.

Devi also says that habits help alleviate memory loss by creating automatic response.  For example, if you always put your car keys in your handbag, you'll know that's where they are even if you forget putting them there.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Super-Agers: How Some 80-Year-Olds Can Have the Memory of a 50-Year-Old

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Researchers are looking at the brains of "Super-Agers," the small percentage of people who retain a sharp mind even as they age well into their 80s.

Watch ABC News' World News report on Super-Agers:

video platform video management video solutions video player

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Ecstasy Causes Memory Loss, Study Finds

George Doyle/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new study has linked Ecstasy use to memory loss, researchers in Germany have found.

Dr. Daniel Wagner said he tracked more than 100 recreational Ecstasy, or MDMA, users over the course of a year and found that they didn’t perform as well on a series of tests at the end of the study.  He said the damage was most evident in associative memory.  For example, Ecstasy users might have difficulty remembering where they put their keys.

“Given the relatively small amounts of MDMA that were used, and given the relatively short time period of one year, we were quite surprised at these specific effects,” Wagner told ABC News.

Those Ecstasy users took an average of 32 pills over the year, or slightly more than one pill every other weekend.  Dr. Stephen Ross,  director of Addiction Psychiatry at New York University’s Tisch Hospital, said the findings weren’t new or surprising.  Other researchers had similar results in 2007.

“It is a drug that certainly can be problematic,” Ross said.

He also said Wagner’s findings should also be taken with a grain of salt, because Wagner and his team didn’t use any brain imaging to confirm damage to the hippocampus, the part of the brain that plays an important role in long-term memory.

Ross said it’s also not clear whether cannabis -- which was not controlled for in the study -- played a role in the memory loss Wagner saw in his patients.  Studies find cannabis can cause  memory impairment.

“The study doesn’t necessarily rule out the fact that other things caused this,” Ross said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sheryl Crow's Tumor Unlikely Cause of Memory Loss, Expert Says

Gary Miller/FilmMagic(NEW YORK) -- It's unlikely that singer Sheryl Crow's meningioma -- a tumor that occurs outside of the brain -- triggered her memory loss, a doctor said Wednesday.

In a recent interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the singer said that she'd found out about the tumor in November after going to the doctor to discuss memory problems.

"I worried about my memory so much that I went and got an MRI," she told the newspaper. "And I found out I have a brain tumor. And I was like, 'See? I knew there was something wrong.'"

It was just a month ago that Crow reportedly forgot the words to her song "Soak Up the Sun" during a concert in Florida.

But Dr. Michael Schulder, vice chairman of the department of neurosurgery at the Cushing Neuroscience Institute in New York, told ABC News Wednesday that Crow's commonly used treatment plan -- a series of MRI scans to follow the tumor's growth -- "suggests that it's not a very large tumor."

"The kind of symptoms she's describing [memory loss] that came and went....It seems unlikely they are the result of tumors unless she had a small seizure" that she was unaware of, Schulder said.

Schulder, who has not treated or examined Crow or seen her MRI, said that although meningiomas often do not cause any symptoms, headaches and seizures are commonly associated with the tumors. He said that tumors that caused memory loss and confused thinking tended to be larger and the symptoms persisted or worsened and might include personality changes as well.

"Either the tumor is bigger than everyone believes, or it [the memory issue] was a coincidence, or she had a seizure that she might not have known about," he said.

Meningiomas grow from the lining of the brain and inside the skull. Although most of them are benign -- and almost never go beyond the head -- and are considered less severe than those occurring within the brain, 1 percent to 2 percent are malignant and tend to grow back despite surgery and radiation.

Schulder said about 10,000 people a year in the United States are diagnosed with a meningioma. Research has linked meningiomas with breast cancer, he said. Crow is a breast-cancer survivor.

"Women -- middle age or older -- are more likely to get them [meningiomas]," Schulder said. "Women are more likely to get breast cancer than men as well, although either diagnosis can occur in a man....There is an underlying hormonal association with the two kinds of tumors [but] it's not well understood."

He said that although most meningiomas could be treated with surgery, those that were connected to critical structures like optic nerves were usually left alone.

According to Dr. Alan Cohen, chief of surgery at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, a large meningioma tumor could eventually become cancerous, but even if it remained benign, it could create pressure on the brain, resulting in vision or hearing loss, headaches, seizures or other problems.

Schulder said that not operating on the tumor meant that there was a chance it could grow. Depending on the tumor's size and location, continued growth could make later treatment more difficult and hazardous. He said the upside to not going the surgery route is that the tumor might grow so slowly or stop growing and the patient might not need treatment at all.

He said while surgery could remove a meningioma and could even cure a person, surgery alone posed a danger. Schulder said an "excellent" alternative treatment for patients is the noninvasive stereotactic radiosurgery, in which highly focused radiation beams treat small tumors during one or several sessions.

He said that nearly 95 percent of the time, "patients with meningiomas who receive [this treatment] have their tumor controlled."

Overall, Schulder said that women and men, including those diagnosed with breast cancer, should not be concerned. He said meningiomas were relatively rare tumors and those with breast cancer will have already been evaluated by their doctors.

Dr. Gene Barnett, director of the Cleveland Clinic's Brain Tumor and Neuro-Oncology Center, agreed, saying that even though the breast cancer-meningioma association was relatively well-known, "even then the risk of having meningioma is still very low."

"People who are 50 or older or women don't need to get MRI scans without the symptoms of a brain tumor," Schulder said. "Don't worry about that.

"A patient with breast cancer who's being followed by his or her doctor should trust the normal evaluation system. As long as they've been screened ... [they] should not long term be concerned or feel they should get MRI."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


'Amnesia Mom' Says Ambien May Be to Blame

Matthew Hatfield(MIAMI) -- The Colorado mom who says she doesn't remember abandoning her two young sons in a van and walking for 12 miles has reported another case of amnesia to police in which she says she unknowingly sold treasured family heirlooms to a local pawn shop.

The statement by Sarah Hatfield comes as she pled not guilty in court Thursday on two charges of misdemeanor child abuse related to the Jan. 28 incident in which she left her two young sons, ages 2 and 4, at a Thornton, Colo., gas station.

Hatfield, 26, claims her last memory from that day is sitting in her van with her sons at the gas station. Nearly 12 hours later, around midnight, she arrived outside the National Jewish Hospital in Denver, appearing disoriented as she asked a security guard to use a phone to call home, according to police.

Police found the two boys, as well as Hatfield's wallet, cell phone and keys in her abandoned van in the gas station parking lot after responding to a call. They say her husband, Matthew, also reported a handgun missing from the family's home.

The couple reported to police this week that a local pawn shop notified them that a loan was due related to two necklaces and a ring that the shop says Sarah Hatfield pawned two weeks before the van incident. The store has surveillance video showing Hatfield in the store on Jan. 10 but her husband says she has no memory of being there.

"When Sarah walked into the pawn shop [to question the loan] she said that she had no recollection of ever being in there before and she believed it was the first time she'd been in there," Matthew Hatfield told ABC News.

"They [the pawn shop] wouldn't tell us any information so we called the police and the shop released the information and the video to the police," he said. "It certainly appeared to be her on the surveillance video."

Matthew Hatfield says the incident builds his wife's case that she did not knowingly abandon the couple's children and rules out the idea floated by doctors after the Jan. 28 incident that a condition known as "transient global amnesia" could be the cause of his wife's memory loss.

"It does speak to the fact that her inability to recall events has happened more than once," he said. "We're still waiting for follow up with neurologists. She's also going to be undergoing an in-depth psychological evaluation."

The psychological evaluation, Matthew Hatfield said, comes at the request of Child Protection Services which has ordered his wife to not be left alone unsupervised with the couple's children.

Hatfield says the family is now looking more closely at withdrawal from the insomnia medication, Ambien, as a possible cause for his wife's memory loss. The otherwise healthy Hatfield has a history of insomnia and debilitating migraines, the latter of which she's being treated for.

"Sarah had been taking Ambien for about two months and she stopped taking it in mid-January when her prescription ran out," Matthew Hatfield said. "The effect of Ambien withdrawal can also describe what she experienced and, based on our research, can also last for months."

"Ambien is a drug you're supposed to step down from and she didn't do that," he said. "If you step off it properly you're supposed to minimize those withdrawal side effects but she didn't so we believe that may be a cause because the timeline fits and the symptoms fit as well."

Hatfield's trial date is set for June 14. She could face up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Thornton, Colo., police are not commenting on the case, saying it is still an active investigation.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


High-Calorie Diet Could Lead to Memory Loss, Study Suggests

Comstock/Thinkstock(ROCHESTER, Minn.) -- Researchers suggest there may be a link between memory loss and a high-calorie diet.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) can often be an early sign of dementia, and experts say it may help to determine who will eventually develop more serious conditions such as Alzheimer's disease.

Results from a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic show that high calorie intake (2,142.5 to 6,000 calories a day) increased the incidences of MCI for study participants.  At the beginning of the study following the diets of 1,233 people aged between 70 and 89, none of the participants had dementia, and only 163 had been diagnosed with MCI.  For those participants who consumed a high-calorie diet, the incidence of MCI had more than doubled.

Though the study's findings have been presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, they have not been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.  The study authors say it cannot be stated with certainty that a high-calorie diet is the direct cause of MCI or dementia.  

Still, the study authors say that adopting an overall healthy lifestyle that includes a healthy diet and regular exercise would be beneficial to protecting against dementia and other chronic diseases.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Men More Than Women Likely to Experience Memory Loss

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ROCHESTER, Minn.) -- Men more than women are at higher risk of developing mild memory loss, according to a new study published in the journal Neurology. The memory dysfunction, called mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, is the stage between normal brain aging and dementia.

The study has stirred interest, as many other studies have found that women are at higher risk of developing dementia than are men.

"Since MCI is a risk factor for dementia, and large numbers of the baby boomer generation are reaching this age, we must prevent or reduce the risk of MCI, or the increased development of dementia will have a tremendous impact on the cost of health care in elderly persons," said Dr. Rosebud Roberts, lead author of the study and a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

MCI is common in older adults, and often adults realize that their memory or mental function has declined. While research has found that people with MCI are at higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, MCI will not always develop into the more severe condition of dementia or Alzheimer's.

In the study, researchers analyzed 1,450 adults between the ages of 70 and 89 who were free of dementia when they joined the trial. Over a three-year period, study participants went through a battery of memory tests every 15 months. By the end of the trial, 296 participants had developed MCI.

Reserachers found that 7.2 percent of men developed MCI, compared with 5.7 percent of women. People who were not married and those who had less education were also more likely to experience MCI.

While the reasons for the findings are not clear, Robers said risk factors for MCI may occur earlier and at a higher rate in men than in women.

"Women may develop risk factors for MCI at a later age, but the effects may be more severe when they occur," said Roberts. "Women may...progress faster to dementia, or they may progress to dementia without being diagnosed at the MCI stage."

"We've always suspected that there are many people who do not have a diagnosis in the community who are living at this level of cognitive impairment," said Bill Thies, chief medical and scientific officer at the Alzheimer's Association. "The study suggests that we should have increasing concern about people living in the community with cognitive problems. We're only seeing the tip of the iceberg."

MCI is a syndrome, not a particular disease, Dr. Claudia Kawas, a professor in the department of neurology and neurobiology and behavior, said in an email.

"It is often due to early Alzheimer's disease but can also be due to strokes, vitamin deficiencies, thyroid disease, drugs including prescription ones, alcohol or just not feeling well that day," said Kawas. "It will be interesting to see if men with MCI develop Alzheimer's disease at the same or different rate as women."

In the future, "increased efforts should be made to understand differences in risk factors for MCI in men and women [and] efforts to prevent or control these risk factors should be sex specific," said Roberts.

Thies said the medical community is not prepared to deal with the influx of Alzheimer's disease that is expected to occur in the next 40 years. While cancer, heart disease and AIDS each receive about $5 billion to $6 billion in research investments per year, Alzheimer's receives a few hundred million, Thies said. He predicted the cognitive condition would not see breakthrough treatments in the same way the other major diseases had without adequate investment in new research and treatment.

"The medical care system is not organized to deal with cognitive dysfunction in the community, and it's only going to get worse," said Thies. "The post-World War II baby boomers will see a large influx of Alzheimer's and dementia, and until we start to invest at a significant level, we're not going to see the necessary changes and better therapies that are needed to combat this disease."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Nicotine Patch Improves Memory in People with Mild Impairment

BananaStock/Thinkstock(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) -- The nicotine patch designed to help people quit smoking can also improve memory in older adults with mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, a small clinical trial found.

The trial involved 67 non-smokers with MCI, which is considered an intermediate between normal aging and dementia. People with MCI are more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease.

Half of the patients wore a skin patch that delivered 15 milligrams of nicotine per day; the other half wore a placebo patch. The study was double-blinded, meaning both the patients and the researchers were unaware who was getting the drug.

After six months, patients who wore the nicotine patch regained 46 percent of their age-adjusted "normal performance" on long-term memory tests, whereas patients in the placebo group worsened by 26 percent.

"We're pretty excited that we got a strong sign of improvement, and we think it has great implications going forward," said Dr. Paul Newhouse, director of Vanderbilt University's Center for Cognitive Medicine and lead author of the study published Monday in the journal Neurology.

Nicotine stimulates receptors on neurons involved in learning and memory, called cholinergic neurons. In Alzheimer's disease, those neurons die off. In an earlier study, Newhouse showed intravenous nicotine could improve memory in Alzheimer's patients.

Drugs approved to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, such as Aricept, act by inhibiting the breakdown of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that stimulates nicotine receptors as well as other kinds of receptors.

By specifically activating those remaining receptors, nicotine can boost the function of surviving neurons. And research done in cells suggests it might even protect neurons from Alzheimer's disease.

"The jury's still out on whether nicotine is disease-modifying," said Newhouse, describing the ability of a drug to actually slow the progression of a disease rather than merely treat symptoms. "But there's never going to be one single silver bullet. We're going to have to treat patients with a complex brain disease with multiple approaches."

The six-month trial suggested the nicotine was safe. But Newhouse cautioned that smoking or unsupervised use of the patch is not.

"People with mild memory loss should not start smoking or using nicotine patches by themselves, because there are harmful effects of smoking and a medication such as nicotine should only be used with a doctor's supervision," he said. "But this study provides strong justification for further research into the use of nicotine for people with early signs of memory loss."

Newhouse is conducting a one-year follow-up study of the same MCI patients. He hopes to publish the results later this year.

In the next two years, other researchers will reveal the results of two clinical trials of disease-modifying drugs targeting beta-amyloid, a protein that builds up in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Silent Strokes Linked to Memory Loss in Older Adults

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Some stints of memory lapse in older adults may be due to silent strokes, tiny spots of dead cells inside the brain that bring on undetectable stroke symptoms, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Neurology.

Nearly a quarter of older adults have experienced a silent stroke, according to the study. Silent stroke is one type of ischemic stroke, which is characterized by a blood clot in a vessel that supplies blood to the brain. Ischemic strokes account for 87 percent of all stroke cases, according to the American Stroke Association.

While symptoms may not be outwardly detectable, research suggests the condition could cause damage to parts of the brain and long-term memory loss.

"Typically people think of a lot of memory decline as an early indicator of Alzheimer-like changes," said Adam Brickman, assistant professor of neuropsychology at Columbia University's Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer's Disease and the Aging, and co-author of the study.

Brickman and his colleagues looked at 658 participants with an average age of 79 who had no history of dementia. They were administered a test that gauged their memory, language skills and thinking abilities. Researchers also measured the size of the participants' hippocampus, crucial to the regulation of memory and emotion, and they also administered an MRI brain scan.

A smaller hippocampus has been previously associated with cognitive decline.

The brain scans showed that 174 of the participants had experienced silent strokes, and those participants did not perform as well on their memory tests, independent of their hippocampus size.

"We showed that above and beyond size, stroke also contributed to the memory loss and could be a potential indicator for Alzheimer's development," said Brickman.

Study findings suggest that Alzheimer symptoms may be due both to the size changes in the hippocampus and the vascular changes in the brain, Brickman said.

Risk factors for silent stroke include high blood pressure, obesity and high cholesterol.

According to Dr. Shazam Hussain, director of the stroke program at Cleveland Clinic, many people are suffering strokes at earlier ages in adulthood.

"Over time these strokes accumulate damage," said Hussain. "Unfortunately, stroke is a problem that's not reversible."

Brickman said it's unrealistic to use MRIs as a screening method to check for silent strokes in older adults, but it would be beneficial to monitor those who are at high risk for the condition.

"By controlling vascular symptoms, we can prevent stroke, which may be a viable way of preventing cognitive changes of aging," he said.

While the study suggests some connection between silent strokes and memory decline, it's unclear whether silent strokes are a potential marker for later development of Alzheimer's disease. Researchers are now following participants over a longer period of time to see whether some will develop Alzheimer's.

"I think what's emerging is a story in which vascular disease contributes to the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease," said Brickman.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Researchers Tap Into 'Super Memory' by Isolating Gene

HANS-ULRICH OSTERWALDER/Getty Images(WACO, Texas) -- There's some hope for those with a failing memory: Scientists at Baylor University say they're now able to give mice "super memories" by isolating a gene that apparently blocks another gene called PKR, which is triggered at the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

And since humans and these rodents share similar brains, researchers now believe they can develop a pill that acts as an inhibitor of the PKR gene that we have similar with mice.

Baylor lead researcher Maura Costa-Mattioli adds that because they can now provide mice with "super memories," the same might be done to help humans in the not-too-distant future.

The goal of the pill would be to provide those with deteriorating memories a boost, not enhance those who are still pretty sharp.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio