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.

1 comment:

Joseph J. Sivak MD said...

Excellent blog. Important information presented in this area for Alzheimer's.
Do you know of any studies that speculate on which areas of the brain are affected more early on than others? Example right vs left hemisphere. Since language is often affected early on, (naming of objects etc. would that imply left frontal and left temporal regions are affected more early on in the course of the disease?
I have always wondered exactly why music can have a calming affect on aggitated AD patients,
Also if the amygdala and limbic system are affected more than we realized, that must explain why many AD patients are anxious, panic stricken and often depressed.
Keep up the good blogging.
Joseph J. Sivak MD