27.12.09

WHAT IS GOING ON INSIDE OF ME (YOU, HIM, HER, THEM)

Richard Taylor, a retired Psychologist, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's-type dementia in 2001 at the age of 58. Originally, he started to write to better understand for himself what was going on inside of him. When he isn't out speaking, he writes for two or three hours every day. Even as the disease progresses, he thus far has maintained his ability to look at and attempt to understand himself. Richard is an articulate, thoughtful, and thought-filled speaker to caregivers. Hundreds of them have used his insights as the basis for conversations and insights into what might be going through their loved one's minds. While Richard still leads a vibrant life, control of his concentration is sometimes elusive. His language facility is still mostly intact, although he increasingly searches for the right word.


A book has been written by Richard Taylor:


Receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease profoundly alters lives and creates endless uncertainty about the future. How does a person cope with such a life-changing discovery? What are the hopes and fears of someone living with this disease? How does he want to be treated? How does he feel as the disease alters his brain, his relationships, and ultimately himself? Richard's book provides illuminating responses to these and many other questions in this collection of provocative essays. He shares an account of his slow transformation and deterioration and the growing division between his world and the world of others.

With poignant clarity, candor, and even occasional humor, more than 80 brief essays address difficult issues faced by those with Alzheimer’s disease, including:

• the loss of independence and personhood
• unwanted personality shifts
• communication difficulties
• changes in relationships with loved ones and friends
• the declining ability to perform familiar tasks

This rare, insightful exploration into the world of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease is a captivating read for anyone affected personally or professionally by the devastating disease. Individuals with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease will take comfort in the voice of a fellow traveler experiencing similar challenges, frustrations, and triumphs. Family and professional caregivers will be enlightened by Taylor’s revealing words, gaining a better understanding of an unfathomable world and how best to care for someone living in it.




23.12.09

CONNECTING WITH THE INNER SELF: ALZHEIMER AND YOGA


Instead of focusing on what they cannot remember, residents at the Newton and Wellesley Alzheimer Center are learning something new: Yoga.

"Yoga is new to all of them," said instructor Maggie Sky of Roots & Wings Yoga and Healing Arts in Natick, which offers the classes at the center. On a recent afternoon, 15 people chatted, laughed and happily anticipated a yoga class. Sky turned on soft music and encouraged the group to relax and breathe slowly. Everyone began to focus. "Often they don't remember the poses between classes," she said. But there's repetition in the postures and breathing, and the structure of the class repeats itself each time, helping the residents to remember. "We focus on what they can do," added Sky. "Everything is modified, even the deep breathing. The essence of it is the same as any yoga class."

The concentration of the residents in the yoga class defied stereotypes about people with this common form of dementia. "It's good for the memory. It's good for the body," said Sky. "Doing the breathing and the postures, they are connecting with the inner self and each other. "The class members sat in chairs and on couches. Some had walkers; one was in a wheelchair. They listened. They moved their arms and legs with Sky's encouragement. They breathed deeply.

Dr. William Wiener, a neurologist with MetroWest Medical Center, said while Alzheimer's patients can continue with activities they were involved in before their symptoms began, it's unusual for them to learn a new activity because of their memory impairment. "I have Alzheimer's patients who swim every day, but they did that before," he said. He was intrigued to hear that yoga was new for these patients. "This is unique, at the very least. I'm an open-minded doctor. I don't immediately shut out alternative (therapies)." Weiner said it is important to keep Alzheimer's patients active. Patients with the disease often display impaired cognitive function but their bodies are sometimes still healthy and strong, and need exercising. "(They) should be encouraged to do anything that's safe to do within their capacity," he said.

The idea to offer yoga classes at the Newton and Wellesley Alzheimer Center was spearheaded by activities director Louise Arreano. "Corporate (Kindred Healthcare) wanted more exercise" for the residents, Arreano said. Some exercise programs in the past have been successful, others have not. "With this, they really participate," she said. Arreano called Roots & Wings director Karen Kuhl to ask if there was a teacher who could provide classes at the center. Kuhl and Sky wanted to give it a try and decided, with Arreano, to offer a bimonthly class through the summer. There are already plans to continue the classes in the fall. "We've been developing classes for underserved populations," said Kuhl, explaining that Roots & Wings offers varied programs, such as chair yoga for multiple sclerosis patients and therapeutic yoga for youngsters with special needs. "This was such a good match."

At the class, the residents listened intently to Sky. "Notice how the music feels in your body," she said. Encouraging them to breathe slowly and deeply "from your belly," she said, "(notice) the belly expands when you breathe in and falls when you breathe out." As the participants stretched their arms over their heads, Sky told them to "reach for the stars....This keeps your back flexible." Sky said sometimes the participants are engaged and active, other times they sleep or doze through the class, depending on medication they might be taking or other activities or treatments they had that day. Wiener said some patients with Alzheimer's may remember the poses or the breathing exercises better than others. And some may not remember them at all. "If the patients don't carry over the skill, it's not so bad because they have the benefit of the experience," he said.

Back in the class, Sky encouraged the participants to give lots of love to themselves and to "give yourself a hug, give yourself a kiss." Perhaps not moves found in a conventional yoga class but ones that suited these patients and their needs. "A lot of this is touch with them," said Arreano, the center's activities director. "That's the most important thing with them is the touch."

Sky has received positive feedback from caregivers, too. Some participate in the class with their elders. "It gives them a connection," Sky said. "That's my observation. Several of them are expressing interest" in yoga for themselves. But the widest smiles belong to the residents. "It's like yoga was made for them," Arreano said. "They know, they know, they really do, that it is good for their bodies and minds. And they love, love Maggie."

Newton and Wellesley Alzheimer Center is at 694 Worcester Road (Rte. 9), Wellesley. For more information, visit www.nw-alzheimer.com.

Roots & Wings Yoga and Healing Arts is at 317 North Main St., Natick. For more information, visit www.rootsandwingshealingarts.com or call 508-315-8088.

Framingham, MA - The MetroWest Daily News


15.12.09

SIGNS OF PRE-DEMENTIA

Small signs of pre-dementia can do much to address in time a better diagnosis of the neurodegenerative diseases.

A study done by a team of researchers at the University of Oxford, studied, for 20 years, a group of 241 healthy elderly volunteers with specially designed tests to measure their intellectual abilities and cognitive skills. After reviewing the results, the researchers realized that there were small signs on some of those people who betrayed a subsequent health problems.
There is apparently little indicative factors that are easy to detect. These are related to language. In particular, patients who developed mild cognitive impairment or predemencia "had problems with tasks requiring speech, language learning and memorization.
Simple things like difficulty remembering the names of common objects or problems in terms of expressing an idea or meaning of a word are evidence to consider. The fact is that this takes its meaning: in Alzheimer's disease, the first symptoms start with these little details. Hence the importance of locating early in order to start as soon as possible the appropriate treatment.

9.12.09

A GLOBAL APPROACH :::: ATTENDING SUBJECTIVITY


In 2050, 115 million of people could be affected by Alzheimer's Disease

A GLOBAL APPROACH ON ALZHEIMER IS NEEDED

Next year, 35,6 millions of people will suffer Alzheimer. According with Daisy Acosta, Alzheimer's Disease International's president, Goverments and Health Systems arround the wold must face up to social, medical and economic issues related to this disease.
But, from my point of view, they should be in mind not only these macro-dimensions but the people who make up these dimensions as well (micro-dimension). I mean, people affected by AD (person, family, caregivers...) should be approached in a global way by researchers and all those who are involved in understanding this reality.

- The cause of the disease,
- How the life style of the person living with AD was before the diagnosis and how it is after,
- How he/she feels (physically and psychologically) in a pervious and a mild stage,
- How the person interact with others and with his/her environment
- How his/her memory is but also how the person is able to do and to feel at present (the real abilities in the right moment)
- What the caregivers and family need and feel
- How they should be interact with people with AD

We should have in mind all the dimensions of the people affected by AD, in order to understand the needs of all them or even in order to contribute modestly to know why AD is developed and in this way to be able to prevent it.

29.11.09

SUBJECTIVITY REFLECTION::::TAKING ADVICE FROM A PERSON WITH ALZHEIMER

PASQUAL MARAGALL INTERVIEW
(La Vanguardia, 20th October 2009)

¿Pero cree que a la investigación del alzhéimer le hace falta una revolución conceptual, que por el camino marcado no se avanza lo suficiente?
Ya hace cien años que se conoce el alzhéimer, y como no hay mal que cien año dure, ya toca que llegue un gran avance. Si se fija, las personas que tenemos alzhéimer nos refugiamos mucho en refranes, como no hay mal que cien años dure, podemos olvidar dónde hemos dejado las llaves, pero no olvidamos las poesías, las canciones, los refranes… Esto se nos queda en el hipocampo, aquí en el cerebro subiendo a mano izquierda.

Por su experiencia personal, ¿qué consejos daría a una persona que se enfrenta a un diagnóstico de alzhéimer?
Le diría que no deje de hacer cosas. Que disfrute. Que no lo convierta en una tragedia porque no lo es, pero acaba siéndolo si uno se empeña. Que se lo tome con humor. Que se interese por los demás. Y que se ejercite, tanto físicamente como mentalmente. Yo, personalmente, casi cada martes juego a ping pong. Camino mucho. Hago sudokus, y los acabo. Y psicológicamente me ha ocurrido una cosa curiosa.

¿Qué le ha ocurrido?
Me he convertido en un enfermo de la captura de imágenes. Capturo el momento con la cámara del móvil y puedo guardarlo. O enviarlo y compartirlo. Es un entretenimiento fantástico. Pero no creo que tenga que ver con el alzhéimer. Esta afición por los gadgets me viene de hace mucho tiempo.

Y a los familiares de una persona con alzhéimer, ¿qué consejos les daría?
Que no sean sobreprotectores, que dejen un grado de libertad. Sufren, le protegen en exceso y, sin querer, le perjudican. La familia debe ayudar al paciente a ser tan autónomo como pueda.

To read the complete interview click here
You can translate this post on the bottom of this weblog

28.11.09

WITHOUT MEMORY, IS THERE NOTHING OR IS THERE EVERYTHING? LIFE IS FOR LIVING


Alzheimer Person Reflection

HIS WORDS... It's full of these things... it's not good to just sit there and do nothing, because... well... it's going down... yeah... it's terrible all that...ohh forget it! (laughters)... life is for living

From my point of view, living with this condition brings you to enjoy the present, the now... We must reinforce this aspect when communicate with people with AD. We should talk with and listen to people with Alzheimer because they can teach us a lot about what living means. Why traveling back or foreward all time? Why not enjoy what we are and we have at present? We are not just memory, but subjective human beings that need memory to survive daily, to communicate with others... but we are still able of being ourselves, of enjoying life in spite of not having past memories... the person is still here, his subjectivity.

Let's learn about Alzheimer and humanity from another approach!

To watch the clip click here
Again... thanks Lucas!

26.10.09

PRAGMATIC IMPAIRMENT IN FRONTO-TEMPORAL DEMENTIA

Conversational Practices of a Frontotemporal Dementia Patient and His Interlocutors

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a dementia difficult to diagnose because, in the early stages, it leaves patients with intact cognitive functioning and a range of social deficits. For example, FTD causes changes in tactfulness and manners, violations of interpersonal space, and emotional appropriateness (Jagust, Reed, Seab, Kramer, & Budinger, 1989). Until recently (for exceptions see Mates, Mikesell, & Smith, in press) these characterizations have come from (a) brief clinical interviews and observations from neuropsychological testing and (b) caregivers' secondhand reports. Given the social nature of FTD, research is needed to examine the ordinary interactions of FTD patients, ones not colored by caregivers' memories or constrained by the structure of a clinic. Using conversation analysis, this article explores two common conversational practices of one patient, SD. This research shows that while SD's practices may appear appropriate in single, isolated turns, they are often inappropriate in more extended sequences. SD can respond locally to individual turns, that is, he can display local understanding, but he often misunderstands the aims of the sequence, often failing to demonstrate understanding. SD, for instance, shows difficulty understanding the interlocutor's goal of open-ended first pair-parts (FPPs) (eg., wh-questions). As such, SD's interlocutors design their talk to adapt to his incompetencies by constraining their FPPs. These constraints are in an attempt to elicit a more appropriate response from SD and enable him to produce a more appropriate response incrementally, turn-by-turn.

Lisa Mikesell
Affiliation: Department of Applied Linguistics, University of California, Los Angeles
Research on Language & Social Interaction, Volume 42, Issue 2 April 2009 , pages 135 - 162

25.10.09

TALK: HUMAN COGNITION AND LANGUAGE LOSS IN ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE


ALZHEIMER DISCOURSE TALK

DISCOURSE STUDIES GROUP (GED), University Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona, Spain)

I+D Project: Epistemic Strategies in discourse: interaction and communication

Speaker:

Dr. Fernanda da Cruz
(Universidade Federal de São Paulo)


Theoric and Epistemologic questions about the research on
human cognition and language loss


Date:
Monday, 16th November 2009 at 19h
Location:
UPF, Roc Boronat 138 (Metro: Glòries) Communication-Poblenou Campus, Room: 52.327

Contact: julia@discursos.org

21.10.09

Alzheimer's Association: list of warning signs for Alzheimer's disease and related dementias


The warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease

How to understand the difference between typical age-related changes in memory and those derived from Alzheimer’s disease.

click here

12.10.09

DEMENTIA AND IDENTITY

The Stubborn Myth of Identity

Dementia, Memory, and the Narrative Unconscious

Mark Freeman, Ph.D., Professor, Psychology, College of the Holy Cross

AUDIO CLIP

In a lecture delivered in December of 2008 at a conference on memory at Emory University, psychology professor Mark Freeman talks about how his mother's identity has changed as a result of her dementia. In the context of narratives, and how they work to create identity, Freeman discusses his mother's struggle to understand who she is, where she is, and why she is there.

To read more about this click here


25.8.09

EFFECTS OF AD ON MEMORY FOR VERBAL EMOTIONAL INFORMATION

Elizabeth A. Kensinger a,∗ , Alberta Anderson b , John H. Growdon b , Suzanne Corkin a
a
Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT, Building NE20-392,
77 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
b
Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA

Do AD patients demonstrate a normal emotional memory enhancement effect?

In healthy young and older adults, emotional information is often better remembered than neutral information. It is an open question, however, whether emotional memory enhancement is blunted or preserved in Alzheimer disease (AD). Prior studies of emotional memory in AD have included small samples of patients. In addition, studies that failed to find an enhancement effect in AD used stimuli lacking semantic coherence (e.g. lists of unrelated words, some that were emotional and others that were neutral). To circumvent these limitations, the present study examined a large number of AD patients (N = 80) and investigated whether AD patients would show better memory for a verbal description of an emotional event as compared to a neutral one. AD patients were equivalent to young and older control participants in rating the emotional descriptions for valence and arousal. Unlike the control groups, however, memory in AD patients did not benefit from the emotional narratives.
Conclusions: Deficits in the formation of new episodic memories are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. Although numerous studies have investigated these declarative memory deficits, recent attention has been drawn to the modulatory effects of emotion on memory and the extent to which this modulation is disrupted with healthy aging and Alzheimer’s disease. Studies to date have suggested that healthy aging leaves the emotional memory enhancement effect relatively intact. In contrast, while Alzheimer’s disease patients remain capable of processing emotional information and responding to emotional events, they do not show the same memory boost for emotional information as demonstrated by healthy older adults. The contrast between the performance of healthy older adults and Alzheimer’s disease patients likely results from the significant changes to limbic regions, including the amygdala, that accompany Alzheimer’s disease.

Source (pdf): Kensinger EA, Anderson A, Growdon JH, & Corkin S (2004). Effects of Alzheimer disease on memory for verbal emotional information. Neuropsychologia, 42, 791-800.

18.8.09

BOOK: LANGUAGE, INTERACTION AND FRONTOTEMPORAL DEMENTIA

Language, Interaction and Frontotemporal Dementia Reverse Engineering the Social Mind


Description
In the past before improving technologies allowed for the direct observation of brain activity, brain damaged patients were a prime avenue for understanding language structure and inferring back to brain function. Now with the rapid developments in neuroscience, what we do know about the brain can inform us about language allowing us to build hypotheses about the role particular brain regions perform in language use. Brain damaged patients thus become populations which serve as test cases. In this volume, the researchers focus on the interactions of frontotemporal dementia patients. These patients have right hemisphere, frontal and temporal pole atrophy which leaves their cognitive abilities intact, but their social interactions impaired and their personalities changed.

The volume opens with a discussion of the frontal lobes and their expected contributions to language as a tool for social interaction. Then a conversation analytic approach is applied to analyze what changes in the structure of interaction lead to a sense that the interactions are impaired or inappropriate. Finally, the volume ends with a look forward to what FTD contributes to our understanding of human sociality and what has been gained in our understanding of the brain and language.

Biography
Andrea W. Mates (UCLA, Applied Linguistics) primary research interest lies in the neurobiology of language use and language learning. In addition to research in frontotemporal dementia, she co-authored The Interactional Instinct along with Namhee Lee, John Schumann, Anna Dina L. Joaquin, and Lisa Mikesell. She is currently working on a project examining the ecological validity of cognitive tests for schizophrenics.

Lisa Mikesell (UCLA, Applied Linguistics) uses conversation analysis and ethnographic methods to study neurological disorders and difficulties in communication. She currently works on two research projects examining the ordinary lives and practices of frontotemporal dementia and schizophrenia patients. She is the editor of Issues in Applied Linguistics, the journal of the Department of Applied Linguistics at UCLA and was selected as a recipient of a dissertation fellowship by the American Association for University Women (AAUW) for 2008-2009 to continue her work on frontotemporal dementia.

Michael Sean Smith (UCLA, Applied Linguistics) focuses his work on Talk-in-Interaction and applying it with neurologically-impaired populations. His prior work centered on the interactions between individuals with frontotemporal dementia and their caregivers, treating clinicians, and friends, in both institutional and social contexts. By applying rigorous observational methods to populations, who's primary dysfunction is in social behavior, he hopes to develop a behavioral classification of these populations, and contribute to our understanding of the deep subjective and inter-subjective structures that are underlie social interaction.

17.8.09

BOOK: MEMORY, AGING AND THE BRAIN

A Festschrift in Honour of Lars-Goran Nilsson

Edited by Lars Backman, Lars Nyberg (July, 2009) Psychology Press

About the Book

This book brings together some of the best known experts in their fields to offer a cross-disciplinary summary of current research on human memory. More than this however, the book pays tribute to the work of Lars-Göran Nilsson and his many contributions to the psychology of human memory.

The book is divided into three subsections: General Issues in Human Memory, Memory and Aging, and Memory and the Brain. These sections represent the three cornerstones in Lars-Göran´s scientific career and comprise contributions from senior collaborators, colleagues and former students.

Areas of discussion include:

  • long-term and working memory: how do they interact?
  • an epidemiological approach to cognitive health in aging
  • the cognitive neuroscience of signed language

Covering a broad range of topics, Memory, Aging and the Brain will be of great interest to all those involved in the study and research of human memory.

15.8.09

IDENTIFYING MILD COGNITIVE IMPAIRMENT


to see the film click the link bellow:


Ronald Petersen, MD, Ph.D-Mayo Clinic

Topic: This film highlights the importance of distinguishing among the various dementias that can occur with aging.

COMMUNICATIVE INTERACTION: GRANDPA, DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?


to see the film click the link bellow:

HBO: Documentaries: The Alzheimer's Project: Watch the Films: Grandpa, Do You Know Who I Am? With Maria Shriver

Topic: This film tells five stories of children, ages 6-15, who are coping with grandfathers or grandmothers suffering from Alzheimer's Disease.

14.8.09

YOGA, COGNITIVE FUNCTIONS AND DEMENTIA

Yoga therapy can be used to treat those suffering from dementia, since there are no other effective means to counter this disease properly.

This point was highlighted during a support group meeting on Saturday at Sandhya Kirana, an old-age home, to help family members of persons with dementia. The meeting was organized by Alzheimer's and Related Disorders Society of India.

Hari Prasad from Nimhans spoke on how yoga can be used as a therapy, and he gave a presentation on using this method properly. "Currently, there is no single approved treatment method for dementia. I suggest yoga may work," he said.
He highlighted two forms of yoga for dementia patients. One is the preventive method, which addresses risk factors, reduces depression, hypertension and memory impairment. The other is curative, which prevents progression of the disease, improves quality of life and cognition in mild and moderate stages. Depending on the patient and the person's background, the yoga method can be moderated. "Yoga has an overall benefit through various methods like asanas, pranayama, kriya, mudras and meditation. It helps strengthen muscles, improves respiration, etc. It leads to a tranquilized state of mind," he explained. Caretakers of dementia patients were also asked to do yoga. This is because they may get irritated and depressed while taking care of unresponsive patients.

"Yoga is open for all ages," he added.

Source: BANGALORE, Karnataka / The Times of India / April 12, 2009

5.8.09

MANAGEMENT IMPAIRMENT OF OTHER'S KNOWLEDGE: AUTISM and ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE

I have posted this recent article given its deep connection with my thesis project. As people with Alzheimer's Disease, Children with Autism are not able to manage knowledge about their interlocutors. The current article deals with how those with autism have not the ability to gauge other's emotions and that meddle in communicative interaction.

A team from the University of Durham studied 13 adults with autism and found the patients had difficulty identifying emotions such as anger or happiness when shown short animated video clips. Researcher suggest in Neuropsychologia this may contribute to problems with social interaction, characteristic of autism.

"The way people move their bodies tells us a lot about their feelings or intentions, and we use this information on a daily basis to communicate with each other"
Anthony Atkinson
Lead Author

"We use others' body movements and postures, as well as people's faces and voices, to gauge their feelings," said Anthony Atkinson, who led the research. "People with autism are less able to use these cues to make accurate judgements about how others are feeling. "We now need to look further to see how exactly this happens and how this may combine with potential difficulties in attention."

It is thought as many as half a million people in the UK have a form of autism, a lifelong developmental disability which can severely affect how a person makes sense of the world around them.

Source: Neurpsychologia

1.8.09

YOGA AND PSYCHOLOGY Language, Memory and Mysticism by Harold G. Coward

In part one of the book, Coward establishes the centrality of language to yoga. Here his thesis is bold and clear - that language has inherent within itself the power to convey knowledge both of a sensuous and a super sensuous kind, and to realize release. In the second part he discusses Freud, Jung and some transpersonal psychologists' perspectives on yogic issues like dualism and the possibility of an almost immaterial, ego-less knowing, the eradication of desires and of the unconscious, and free will.

The most relevant for our research issue is that Coward establishes in detail the centrality of trustworthy linguistic communications: the importance of testimony. According to Coward, there are divisions of Indian schools depending on the "degree of revealing power allowed to words" (p12). Verbal communication (agama) is one of three sources of valid knowledge (pramana) in Indian thought, (along with perception (pratyaksa) and inference (anumana)). Verbal communication functions when a trusted observer (apta), transfers his or her knowledge to us and is valid "if it is not deceptive, confused or barren in knowledge" (p. 12). The apta has to be "skilled and compassionate in the passing on of knowledge" (p.12), and not prone to any twisting of the knowledge for fame or fortune. Of course, the verbal communication may still fail if the mind of the hearer is too 'covered with karmic impurity' or too distracted to pay attention.

Yoga is thus a set of techniques for permitting the committed yogin to become one with Isvara (Isvara is defined as pure sattva (transparent consciousness) by a special kind of self or purusa that is beginninglessly untouched by the taints of karmas), a mystical fusion that entails losing one's impure personal ego. Language is central to this mystical experience since in it sound and meaning become one. "It is Isvara who is expressed by the word AUM: the sound of the word evokes its meaning" (p17). The relation between word and meaning here is not by convention" the relationship between Isvara and the word AUM is fixed like a lamp and its light" (Vyasa cited in p. 17).

Yoga teaches freedom and release from the individual ego rather than the cultivation of ego-strength or uniqueness endorsed in the west, entails a loss of individual ego. Yoga entails the belief that the true nature of objects can be encountered when we have transcended all of the material apparatus of body, senses and to some extent individual mind. Yoga is not about control of the object, but of changing the subject. It has a very precise array of techniques and practices to achieve that, involving postures, breath-control, taming of the fluctuations of the mind as a result of wandering senses, and an exquisite attention to the role that habits of mind and perception play in distorting our grasp of reality so that we can counter these habits, and be open to what is. With meditative practice one becomes so subtly aware of the way that past traces, emotions and a kind of sloth or heaviness marks one's consciousness that one can root out those tendencies to an ever-increasing degree. Coward suggests that Yoga assumes that when 'egoity' (sic) is overcome there is no further duality between subject and object, only immediate intuition.

From my point of view, through all this knowledge we can try finding an alternative and complementary way to investigate what the "tipping point" is in which communication/interaction breaks off in people with Alzheimer and how cognitive functions (memory, attention) are involved and interact with language.

Click Book Reference: Yoga and Psychology Language, Memory, and Mysticism by Harold G. Coward SUNY Press, 2002


30.7.09

SEA MEMORY: CONTEXT REPRESENTATION IN ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE

Sea Memory: Context Representation in AD

(thesis project presentation 14/07/2009)

Department Translation and Laguage Sciences

University Pompeu Fabra

I would like to share with you a presentation about my thesis project in order to get your interest, knowledge about the issue and your feedback.

I would like to thank everyone who collaborated on my proposal presentation, members of the committee (Dr. Rafael Blesa, Dr. Albert Costa and Dr. Montserrat González) and , of course, Dr. Teun A. van Dijk.

Thank you all for your support and encouragement!

Fátima

Click here to see the presentation

9.7.09

LANGUAGE "PREDICTS DEMENTIA RISK"

People with superior language skills early in life may be less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease decades later, research suggests.

A team from Johns Hopkins University studied the brains of 38 Catholic nuns after death.They found those with good language skills early in life were less likely to have memory problems - even if their brains showed signs of dementia damage.

The study appears online in the journal Neurology.

One possible implication of this study is that an intellectual ability test in the early 20s may predict the likelihood of remaining cognitively normal five or six decades later
Rebecca Wood
Alzheimer's Research Trust

Dementia is linked to the formation of protein plaques and nerve cell tangles in the brain. But scientists remain puzzled about why these signs of damage produce dementia symptoms in some people, but not others.

The researchers focused on nuns who were part of an ongoing clinical study. They divided the women into those with memory problems and signs of dementia damage in the brain, and those whose memory was unaffected regardless of whether or not they showed signs of dementia damage. And they also analysed essays that 14 of the women wrote as they entered the convent in their late teens or early 20s, assessing them for complexity of language and grammar. The study showed that language scores were 20% higher in women without memory problems than those with signs of a malfunctioning memory. The grammar score did not show any difference between the two groups.

Lead researcher Dr Juan Troncoso said: "Despite the small number of participants in this portion of the study, the finding is a fascinating one. "Our results show that an intellectual ability test in the early 20s may predict the likelihood of remaining cognitively normal five or six decades later, even in the presence of a large amount of Alzheimer's disease pathology."

Brain cell growth

The study also found that brain cells were largest in women who retained a normal memory despite showing signs of disease in their brains. The researchers said this suggested that a growth in brain cells might be part of the body's early response to the onset of dementia, and this might help to prevent memory impairment. Dr Troncoso said: "Perhaps mental abilities at age 20 are indicative of a brain that will be better able to cope with diseases later in life." Dr Susanne Sorensen, head of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said: "It is interesting that the nuns in the study with better language skills in their youth avoided memory problems in later life. "However, the research is in a very small, select group and it would be difficult to say at this stage if language skills could really predict dementia."

Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, said: "One possible implication of this study is that an intellectual ability test in the early 20s may predict the likelihood of remaining cognitively normal five or six decades later. "However, prominent exceptions exist, including authors like Terry Pratchett and Iris Murdoch, who developed dementia despite their linguistic brilliance."

Source: BBC

2.7.09

THE ANATOMY OF MEANING

How do we understand what others are trying to say? The answer cannot be found in language alone. Words are linked to hand gestures and other visible phenomena to create unified ‘composite utterances’. In this book N. J. Enfield presents original case studies of speech-with-gesture based on fieldwork carried out with speakers of Lao (a language of Southeast Asia). He examines pointing gestures (including lip and finger-pointing) and illustrative gestures (examples include depicting fish traps and tracing kinship relations). His detailed analyses focus on the ‘semiotic unification’ problem, that is, how to make a single interpretation when multiple signs occur together. Enfield’s arguments have implications for all branches of science with a stake in meaning and its place in human social life. The book will appeal to all researchers interested in the study of meaning, including linguists, anthropologists, and psychologists.

19.6.09

WIDEN FRONTIERS

Alzheimer's disease (AD) has become the most common form of dementia in the world. Nowadays, it does not raise only a scientific, human and healthy challenge, but also a social and family one. AD is a progressive, degenerative disease that destroys vital brain cells. AD affects memory systems as well as cognitive and executive functions; that is, AD damages the ability to think, to remember, to speak and to make decisions. In addiction to affecting a person’s mental abilities, the disease can also lead to other problems such as emotional and behavioural changes, confusion and disorientation in time and space.
In the early stage of the disease, apart from memory systems, language becomes one of the affected cognitive functions. Until now, the greater part of linguistic research in AD accounts for semantic dificulties at a lexical level and their neural correlates (Imamura 1998; Venneria et al., 2008; Costa et al., 2008; Apostolova et al., 2008). These discoveries are relevant because they do not contribute only to the study of the conceptual organization of the information in the brain, but also of the anatomical ground of semantic degradation.

However, if we consider aging as a complex process, given its multi-directionality and the great internal and external variables that take part in the process, we should think about aging from a global and multidisciplinary perspective in order to comprehend the nature of aging. Also, we should keep in mind that scientists are neither exactly sure why cells fail in AD, nor have they yet identified any single cause. Because of this, one might expect that this disease has a multifactorial reason, with the greatest risk factor being increasing age. As aging, AD entails a complex process and it is not enough to think that language problems in AD are mainly characterised by a shrinking vocabulary and decreased word fluency; we must study, therefore, language within these processes from a wide perspective, beyond the lexical level.

To my knowledge, I consider Discourse Studies as the most suitable discipline for research in the communicative and linguistic dimensions in AD. It is the richest area in Neurolinguistics dealing with the complex interaction among language, cognition and brain. Thus, Discourse Studies could generate a multidisciplinary study framework around language research in AD. According to the literature, studies on the interplay between discourse processing and memory systems (Kintsch et al., 1999; Caspari, I., y Parkinson, Stanley R., 2000) as well as on discourse processes and its neural correlations have been published (Nieuwland, M. S. & van Berkum, Jos J. A. 2006; Troiani et al., 2006; Baggio et al., 2008; van Berkum et al., 2008; Martín-Loeches et al., 2008). Despite these studies, research into Alzheimer Discourse, in this particular field, hardly exists (Ash et al., 2006).

Previous research into Discourse Studies and Alzheimer’s Disease has focused, essentially, on discourse semantic level (Ulatowska, H. K. & Chapman, S. B. 1991; Vuorinen et al., 2000; Dijkstra et al., 2003; Ash et al., 2004; Ash et al., 2007). Additionally, there exist studies covering the pragmatic and sociolinguistics aspects of Alzheimer Discourse (Ramanathan 1995; Ramanathan 1997; Perkins et al., 1998; Keller, J., y Rech, T., 1998; Hamilton 1994; Hamilton 2008) as well as relatively new studies on research in artificial intelligenge (AI) for which the general motivation is to construct testable computational models that will enhance understanding of the effects of AD on communication and, specifically, to develop a computer program for training caregivers in use of assistive techniques for social conversation with persons in their care affected by AD (Green 2002; Green & Davis 2003; Green 2004).

All these different perspectives on Alzheimer Discourse research allow us to achieve an integral comprehension of how the real communication of persons living with AD is. In spite of these studies (among others), there are still not many researchers doing this kind of work; thus, more investigation in all dimensions of Alzheimer Discourse (such as pragmatic, semantic, sociolinguistic, neurologic, cognitive, technological (AI) and so on) is needed. I would like highlight the importance of crossing disciplinary boundaries in order to obtain a complete understanding about discourse and Alzheimer. That is, Discourse Studies will permit us 1) to comprehend how language is used by patients with this disease in many contexts, both experimental and natural; 2) to find out how discourse processing is carried out at a neural level and how discourse interplays with memory systems and cognitive aspects as well.

All these reflections make up part of my PhD project, which has also a therapeutic motivation: setting up new more natural and contextualized therapies in order to stimulate communicative skills of people suffering of Alzheimer. Some of these therapies could be thought through Yoga practice, which could improve in a creative way their mental (cognitive) and body balance.

12.5.09

ART THERAPY FOR ALZHEIMER'S



Museums across USA are reaching out to people with Alzheimer's in order to bring the soothing power of art into the minds of those tackling dementia.
The Museum of Modern Art in New York recently received a major, two-year grant from the MetLife Foundation to expand its "Meet Me At MoMA" program, which offers small group sessions and workshops for people in the early to mid stages of Alzheimer's. Other museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, offer similar programs.

The museum is also conducting a study, in conjunction with the New York University School of Medicine, to assess the effects of art therapy on those with Alzheimer's disease. The "Meet Me at MoMA" program guides people with Alzheimer's through lively discussions of works by modern masters like Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol. MoMA, like other museums, offers weekly or monthly tours for people in the early to middle stages of Alzheimer's disease. Individuals are encouraged to discuss the works and to express whatever thoughts and emotions come to mind. Seeing art and talking about it, like creating art, is thought to release trapped emotions and engage parts of the brain that keep the mind active and the memory intact. In fact, art may prove a vital creative outlet for many with the disease who can no longer read or have trouble speaking or understanding words. Art, like music, seems to touch areas deep in the brain that are vital for well-being and emotional health, regardless of age or mental capacities. That's why both art and music therapy are increasingly being used for people with Alzheimer's disease.

As a researcher interested in new natural treatments for persons with Alzheimer's Disease, I would like to take this news item to highlight the innovative project of Dr. Heidi Hamilton on “Talk in Response to Paintings: A Pilot Study of the Intersection of Art, Dementia, and Discourse" (in collaboration with Dr. John Zeisel, President, of Hearthstone Alzheimer Care Ltd., Massachusetts, founder of the “Artists for Alzheimer’s” program, and Dr. Mike Bird, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Greater Southern Area Health Service, Queanbeyan, New South Wales), August 2007-present. This study focuses on linguistic analysis in order to provide powerful evidence of the cognitive and social effects of such programs on participants. According to Dr. Hamilton, the findings of this study will illuminate contextual features of the complex relationship between language and Alzheimer’s disease while simultaneously providing an important step toward improving the everyday lives of people living with this disease.

Picture: By Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY

7.5.09

5.5.09

MANAGEMENT OF KNOWLEGDE IN ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE

A new study published in Neuropsychology suggests that patients with AD seem to have trouble determining which pieces of information are more important than others. The researchers, led by Alan D. Castel of the University of California, Los Angeles, based their conclusions on a study of 109 people with an average age of 75. Some were in early stages of Alzheimer's, while others were cognitively healthy. Selecting what is important to remember, attending to this information, and then later recalling it can be thought of in terms of the strategic control of attention and the efficient use of memory. To examine whether aging and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) influenced this ability, the present study used a selectivity task, where the volunteers were asked to memorize a series of words, each of which had a point value associated with it. The higher the value of the word, they were told, the more important it was to remember it. The researchers said it might be that in early Alzheimer's the brain was already becoming less efficient at learning and memorizing. They added that it might be possible to train patients to improve their memory strategies.

New evidence suggests that in Alzheimer's Disease part of the initial impairment lies in attentional control (see Balota & Faust, 2001, and Perry & Hodges, 1999) and it can lead to impairments in:

(1) Enconding and maintaining relevant information in Working Memory
(2) Inhibitory control
(3) Retrieval and response control

According to this study, the ability to selectively encode information is likely dependent on several possibly interrelated abilities, including inhibitory control, working memory capacity, monitoring, and metacognitive control related to using performance on previous trials to update resource allocation strategies. Although previous research has widely documented impairments in memory in old age and AD, the present study shows that AD is also associated with a specific deficit in being selective and strategic about encoding operations, which likely contributes to their poorer memory efficiency.

Personally, I think that the results of this study are very interesting to gain an insight also into the nature of communication impairments in Alzheimer. Both, memory-attention and communication deficits are interconnected, so that, I am focusing my thesis project on how persons with AD manage knowledge in talk. I consider that, at the same time, it should be appropriated to carry out new studies on that issue but beyond the word-level and well-controlled experimental environments. That is, research with ecological validity into how persons with AD communicate and interact with their interlocutors in real world-settings are needed in order to comprehend how these strategies for knowledge management are set and which their real deficits in communication, memory and attention are.

Journal reference:

Alan D. Castel, David A. Balota, and David P. McCabe. Memory Efficiency and the Strategic Control of Attention at Encoding: Impairments of Value-Directed Remembering in Alzheimer's Disease. Neuropsychology, Vol. 23, No. 3

4.4.09

LINGUISTIC STUDY OF AGATHA CHRISTIE'S BOOKS CLAIMS SHE HAD ALZHEIMER

An in-depth analysis of Agatha Christie's novels has suggested that she was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Academics at the University of Toronto studied a selection of Christie's novels written between the ages of 28 and 82, counting the numbers of different words, indefinite nouns and phrases used in each. They found that the vocabulary size decreased sharply, while repetition of phrases and indefinite word usage (something, thing, anything) in her novels increased significantly. "These language effects are recognised as symptoms of memory difficulties associated with Alzheimer's disease" said Dr Ian Lancashire from the English department and computer scientist Dr Graeme Hirst.
Although Christie, whose books have sold over two billion copies worldwide, was never diagnosed with dementia, the authors of the study conclude that the changes in her writing are consistent not with normal ageing, but with Alzheimer's disease. The Canadian study supports a 2004 comparison of two early works by Iris Murdoch with her last novel, Jackson's Dilemma, which concluded that textual analysis could be used to detect the onset of dementia before anyone [has] the remotest suspicion of any untoward intellectual decline".Jackson's Dilemma was published in 1995 to a poor critical reception, and Murdoch was found to have Alzheimer's the following year. Scientists from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London compared it to earlier works Under the Net and The Sea, The Sea, and found that her vocabulary had worsened in the final work, which contained fewer words and clauses per sentence on average.
Lancashire and Hirst are now continuing and extending their study, looking into changes in Christie's use of passive verbs and the decline in her syntactic complexity. They also want to compare her writing with the work of a contemporary for whom dementia is not suspected.

Source: guardian.co.uk at 13.53 BST on Friday 3 April 2009

30.3.09

SOCIAL INTERACTIONS AND MENTAL FUNCTIONING

Spending just 10 minutes talking to another person can help improve your memory and your performance on tests, according to a University of Michigan study."In our study, socializing was just as effective as more traditional kinds of mental exercise in boosting memory and intellectual performance," said Oscar Ybarra, a psychologist at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR) and a lead author of the study with ISR psychologist Eugene Burnstein and psychologist Piotr Winkielman from the University of California, San Diego.
This experiment shows that social interaction directly affects memory and mental performance in a positive way and it suggests that social isolation may have a negative effect on intellectual abilities as well as emotional well-being.

About the research

18.3.09

COMMUNICATION AND KNOWLEDGE

Discourse processing certainly represents an aspect of verbal communication that will allow bridge between more classically language-related aspects of cognition and other aspects of cognition that are not exclusive to language but nonetheless allow optimal interpersonal communication abilities. Studying discourse together with other disciplines could help us to understand different aspects which take part in communication processes and could be impaired in Alzheimer communication: how we perceive the world, remember things, comprehend social and linguistic events, and act effectively to satisfy one's needs.

Studies in discourse impairments in brain-damaged individuals should systematically incorporate an appreciation of all cognitive abilities that are necessary in order to achieve normal interpersonal communication (working memory, semantic memory, attention, inferential abilities, visual skills...) Also these studies should propose approaches that enable capturing inter and intra subject variability.

The major issue between persons living with AD and the people who interact with them is communication. We need to really listen, to make sure that we understand and are understood.
How people acquire and represent knowledge about their world, how they organize and use that knowledge, how they use language in speaking. This is a complex cognitive skill. So that, the management of knowledge is a complex cognitive skill and I suggest to focus the study of Alzheimer discourse on that issue: Which is the rol of knowledge in dicourse production and comprehension?

ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE: ADVANCES AND CHALLENGES

One of the most frightening and devastating of all neurological disorders is the dementia that occurs in the elderly. The most common cause of this illness is Alzheimer’s disease (AD). World over it is estimated that 26 million people are living with Alzheimer's and by 2050 the number is expected to quadruple.

The earliest symptoms of AD include forgetfulness; disorientation to time or place; and difficulty with concentration, calculation, language, and judgment. As the disease progresses, some patients have severe behavioral disturbances and may even become psychotic. The diagnosis depends on medical history, physical and neurological examinations, psychological testing, laboratory tests, and brain imaging studies. At present, however, final confirmation of the diagnosis requires examination of brain tissue, usually obtained at autopsy. ate caution must be taken.

The causes and mechanisms of the brain abnormalities underlying AD are not yet fully understood. Reductions occur in levels of markers for many neurotransmitters, including acetylcholine, somatostatin, monoamines, and glutamate, that allow cells to communicate with one another. Damage to these neural systems, which are critical for attention, memory, language, learning, and higher cognitive abilities, is believed to cause the clinical symptoms. Currently approved treatments do not modify the course of the disease and offer only temporary mitigation of some symptoms of AD, such as agitation, anxiety, unpredictable behavior, sleep disturbances, and depression.

Within the past three to five years, greater appreciation has developed for the surprisingly important roles that diet and lifestyle play in determining risk for AD. Cognitive activity, physical activity, and heart-healthy diets lower the risk for AD, while obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes raise the risk. Some evidence indicates that successful management of these cardiovascular risks can delay the onset or
slow the progression of dementia.

Society for Neuroscience

4.3.09

2nd International Clinical Linguistic Conference

Madrid 2009
November 11,12,13

Main topics

* Clinical phonetics and phonology
* Clinical grammar
* Clinical linguistics and lexical-semantical aspects
* Clinical linguistics and pragmatics
* Clinical sociolinguistics
* Language acquisition and development, and Clinical Linguistics: L1 and L2
* New technologies for language acquisition and development in clinical situations
* Assessment, treatment, description of language disorders
* Brain and language

Abstract submission (oral presentations and posters): From October 1st. to April, 15th. 2009

Acceptance confirmation: April, 30th. 2009
Full text submission: June, 15th. 2009

Link: more information

28.1.09

COMMUNICATION STYLE AND QUALITY OF LIFE

The quality of life of individuals with AD is affected by the communication style. Its impact is significant. An study from the University of California at Los Angeles, presented at the International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease (2008), found that healthy family members’ responses to unanticipated comments from individuals with AD followed predictable patterns. When a response disrupted the flow of conversation, healthy family members often continued to speak as if the person with AD had not spoken or tended to pause, indicating they had heard the comment, but did not respond verbally. Such responses frame the individual with AD as a nonparticipant in the conversation.
“Elderspeak,” defined as overly caring, controlling and infantilizing communication, by caregivers increases resistance to care by nursing home residents with dementia. As AD progresses, individuals have increasing difficulties with communication. These difficulties are related to cognitive changes. This kind of studies should be kept in mind in order to to develop training programs to facilitate conversation.

24.1.09

A JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF YOUR MIND

V.S. Ramachandran is Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego. In a wide-ranging talk, Vilayanur Ramachandran explores how brain damage can reveal the connection between the internal structures of the brain and the corresponding functions of the mind.
I consider this is an interesting talk, since Ramachandran's suggestions provide us with a wider perspective on how the brain works. It could give us insight on Alzheimer communication.

I recommend you his excellent book: Phantoms in the Brain. New York: William Morror, 1998.

(CLIP)

THE COGNITIVE EFFECTS OF COMMUNICATING INTIMATELY WITH NATURE


New study finds that short-term memory is improved 20% by walking in nature, or even just by looking at an image of a natural scene. Marc G. Berman and colleagues at the University of Michigan wanted to test the effect of a walk's scenery on cognitive function (Berman, Jonides & Kaplan, 2008; PDF). These results replicated a previous study by Berto (2005) who found that just viewing pictures of natural scenes had a restorative effect on cognitive function.

What is it, then, about being immersed in real natural scenes that allows the mind to unwind?

Kaplan (1995) provides a nice explanation based on the idea that attention is split into two types: Involuntary attention and Directed attention. Natural scenes only engage our involuntary attention modestly: it's enough to stop us getting bored, but not so much we need to engage our directed attention to work out where to put our focus. Effectively gazing at the sunset gives our directed attention a rest and we can let our minds wander.

It would be interesting to test how other natural areas provide even greater benefits not only in memory but in perception, communication, executive function...

19.1.09

EFFECTS OF YOGA ON COGNITIVE FUNCTIONS


Yoga has played a role in relaxation and gentle exercise for some people with Alzheimer's, according to the Alzheimer's Association Massachusetts/New Hampshire chapter. A study released last year during the Alzheimer's Association's International Conference on the Prevention of Dementia in Washington, D.C., found that regular meditation can bolster cognitive function for people with memory loss. In this regard, Patrice Flesch (South End Yoga) has been teaching yoga classes at the Boston Alzheimer's center for eight years. She is a pioneer in this area. Patrice alters poses and movements from her traditional yoga to make them more cognitive.
More research is needed to determine how Yoga techniques can reliably be used to improve cognitive performance and possibly aid in treating and even preventing Alzheimer's Disease.


Information available in Spanish
Reference (The Boston Globe)

PASSION FOR SCIENCE

- The ESOF 2010 (the next Euroscience Open Forum) will take place in Torino, Italy, on 2-7 July 2010, under the slogan Passion for Science. http://www.esof2010.org/

MORE INTERESTING ARTICLES AND BOOKS

- Hughes, J.C.; Louw, S.J.; Sabat, S.R. (2006). Dementia: Mind, Meaning, and the Person. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2006.
- Robbins, P. & Aydede, M. (2009). A Shor Primer on Situated Cognition. In P. Robbins & M. Aydede (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of situated cognition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
- Tomasello, M. (2008). Origins of Human Communication. MIT Press.

13.1.09

TALK: DISCOURSE AND ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE

I would like to share this talk that I gave last year at the Advanced Seminar in Discourse Studies led by Professor Teun A. van Dijk.
It focuses on:
1) a panoramic view of Alzheimer's Disease;
2) a literature review over Alzheimer Discourse approaches;
3) a cognitive perspective to study this issue.

Download (.ppt) (Spanish version)