How Does Alzheimer’s Affect the Memory Systems of the Brain?

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Having a healthy brain enables people to perform many different voluntary and involuntary functions. However, when a brain is affected by Alzheimer’s disease, mental and physical functions begin to decrease.

The days, weeks, and months following an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be challenging for both seniors and their families. However, these challenges can be made less stressful with the help of caregivers trained in professional Alzheimer’s care. Ahwatukee Foothills, AZ, Home Care Assistance is here to help your loved one enjoy the golden years while simultaneously managing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Here is a look at how Alzheimer’s disease affects the memory systems of the brain.

Physiology of Memory Loss

As adults age, several changes take place in the neurons. Free radicals circulate throughout the body and cause cells to age and die prematurely. High blood pressure and cholesterol levels cause vascular conditions that interfere with blood circulation. Without sufficient circulation, the brain does not receive the oxygen and nutrients needed to function properly. 

Under normal circumstances, beta and tau proteins develop in the brain, but chemical responses perform a type of housecleaning action that keeps the compounds under control. When Alzheimer’s disease develops, the housecleaning chemicals are no longer able to do their job. The proteins then accumulate in the synapses between the neurons and interfere with communication, and they also prevent the cells from receiving nutrition. As a result, the neurons begin to starve. Beta and tau proteins create tangled masses, which further damage the cells, and they eventually die.

Older adults with Alzheimer’s disease who need help with daily tasks can benefit from professional in-home care. Ahwatukee Foothills senior care experts are available to provide high-quality care to seniors on an as-needed basis. From assistance with mobility and exercise to providing transportation to the doctor’s office and social events, there are a variety of ways professional caregivers can help your aging loved one continue to live independently.  

Types of Memory Affected

Alzheimer’s disease initially attacks the memory and learning centers of the brain. These regions are responsible for episodic, procedural, semantic, and working memory. 

  • Episodic memory is found in the temporal lobe where the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex are situated, and it is typically the first area affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Telltale symptoms include short-term memory loss. However, older memories remain intact. 
  • Procedural memory takes place in the cerebellum where people learn and retain the knowledge necessary to use skills. Examples of procedural memories include bicycling, crocheting, or playing a musical instrument. The procedural memory region is often the last to be affected by Alzheimer’s disease. 
  • Semantic memory lies in the temporal lobes, and it is responsible for retaining general facts and knowledge. When semantic memory is intact, seniors can recognize and name animals, people, and objects. As Alzheimer’s disease affects semantic memory, seniors forget the names of common everyday items. Older adults may also no longer be able to find the correct words to express themselves in conversations. 
  • Working memory forms in the prefrontal cortex, which is vital for attention span and concentration. Short-term memories are also created here to later be transferred to long-term memory. The many types of information absorbed here include addresses, phone numbers, and the steps needed to perform a variety of tasks. When the prefrontal cortex is damaged by Alzheimer’s disease, seniors may suddenly lose their sense of direction and get lost in locations that were once familiar.

If your elderly loved one is living with a serious medical condition and needs help managing the tasks of daily living, reach out to Home Care Assistance, an Ahwatukee Foothills home care agency you can trust. Our caregivers are available 24/7, there are no hidden fees in our contracts, and we offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all of our in-home care services. Call us at (480) 448-6215 to create a comprehensive in-home care plan for your aging loved one.


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