Patients With Amnesia Still Feel Emotions, Despite Memory Loss

A new University of Iowa study offers some good news for caregivers and loved ones of individuals with Alzheimer's disease. Patients might forget a joke or a meaningful conversation -- but even so, the warm feelings associated with the experience can stick around and boost their mood.

For the study, published this week in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers showed individuals with memory loss clips of happy and sad movies. Although the participants couldn't recall what they had watched, they retained the emotions elicited by the clips. Justin Feinstein, lead study author and a student in the UI graduate programs of neuroscience and psychology, says the discovery has direct implications for Alzheimer's disease.

Feinstein conducted the study with UI neuroscience faculty members Daniel Tranel, Ph.D., UI professor of neurology and psychology, and Melissa Duff, Ph.D., UI assistant professor of communication sciences and disorders. The researchers studied five rare neurological patients with damage to their hippocampus, a part of the brain that's critical for transferring short-term memories into long-term storage. Damage to the hippocampus causes new memories to disappear. This same type of amnesia is an early sign of Alzheimer's disease.

Journal Reference:

Justin S. Feinstein, Melissa C. Duff, and Daniel Tranel. Sustained experience of emotion after loss of memory in patients with amnesia. PNAS, April 12, 2010 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0914054107

ScienceDaily (Apr. 13, 2010)

1 comment:

Alzheimer's Disease Support Canada said...

This is great news. I do see signs of this in people with Alzheimer's, even if it is just a smile, or a look in their eye.

It's nice to know the real person we knew and love is still there somewhere.