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The Memory Cure

January 3, 2014

The Memory Cure by Majid Fotuhi

Although the book focused heavily on Alzheimer’s disease, it also focused on general good habits and lifestyle choices to maintain a healthy mind & body throughout life. It covered how various medical conditions and vitamin deficiencies could affect the brain years later.

The book opens with a useful description of how various types of memories are processed and stored in the brain: short-term, long-term, and procedural memory. The focal point of storage of new memories is the Hippocampus – two small banana shaped structures underneath the cerebral cortex and near the ears. The hippocampus plays the key role in processing memories from short-term to long-term. Interesting though, “muscle memory” or procedural memory doesn’t use the hippocampus and instead uses the cerebellum and basal ganglia.

Chapter 2 navigates the reader around the various lobes of the brain. The temporal lobes deal with language and are near the ears. The frontal lobe helps you plan and perform abstract thinking. The parietal lobe provides you a sense of orientation in space. Occipital lobe processes visual signals. And the limbic lobe deals with emotions. It also covers some interesting properties of brain matter like it’s composition: neurons, glia, axons, and dendrites. But in addition to specific terminology describes how the brain’s neuroplasticity allows the brain to re-task different parts of the brain to perform different functions when the usual part becomes none functional.

Chapter 3 goes to great lengths to define the differences between AAMI (Age Associated Memory Impairment) which is completely normal and MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment) which is abnormal but not as serious as Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The basic message here was if you are worried about your own memory, you probably don’t have anything severe. If others worry about your memory, then you might have MCI or something more serious.

Chapter 4 discusses the trademark traits of a physical microscopic examination of brain matter with Alzheimer’s disease: plaques and tangles.

Chapter 5 covers other possible explanations for more than normal age related memory issues. Some examples covered are depression, mini-strokes, vitamin deficiency, alcoholism, low thyroid levels, hearing and vision problems, sleeping problems, and a few others.

Chapter 6 reviews possible risk factors that are damaging to the brain. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, high homocysteine, unhealthy diet, smoking, diabetes, chronic stress, depression, head trauma/concussions, obesity and an isolated/passive lifestyle. The importance of a diet rich in Vitamin E, B12 and folates is explain here. Nearly everything in this chapter would be considered common sense for a healthy body and mind, but it bears repeating to stress the connection that our body and mind are in many ways just reflections of the other.

Chapter 7 discusses pharmaceutical and medical options that can help lower risks.

Chapter 8 describes the characteristics typical memory tests look for and how they’re adaptive and open for some interpretation since there is no definitive memory test. Specifically, this chapter was about using a test to diagnose if someone had severe MCI or actual dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Chapter 9 goes over heredity and its impact on memory issues and diseases like Alzheimer’s.

The Afterword provides a pneumonic on how to improve memory performance: ATTENTION

  • A – pay close attention. Actually focus hard on what you’re trying to remember.
  • – take notes. Don’t make your memory do all the heavy lifting.
  • – try hard. Links up with the paying close attention.
  • – emotions. Emotional memories (happy, sad, romantic, etc) seem to be stored easier.
  • – no fatigue and no stress.
  • – tease and exercise your brain.
  • – imagination. Many memory techniques are based on that like Method of Loci.
  • – organization. Again, like taking notes, just off-loads the mundane from your memory.
  • – never too late.
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