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



Language, Interaction and Frontotemporal Dementia Reverse Engineering the Social Mind

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.

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.



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.



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.


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.



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



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


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