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Memory - Dementia: Age-related Memory Pathologies

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So far, the discussion has been limited to healthy older adults. For most of this research, good health is a requirement for participation in the research. A small percentage of older adults, however, develop dementias that have a primary symptom of memory loss. There are many types of dementia, the most common one being Alzheimer's disease, which accounts for over two-thirds of all cases.

Because there are memory changes associated with normal, healthy aging, it is very difficult to diagnose Alzheimer's disease and other dementias early. There are many neuropsychological memory tests that can determine the progression of the disease once it has been established, but it is much more difficult to determine the early signs of dementia that distinguish Alzheimer's disease from normal memory change and that could be used as a diagnostic test. Unfortunately, the types of memory that are associated with very early dementia (episodic memory and working memory) are the very ones most affected in normal aging (Hodges). This means that the boundary between healthy memory change and unhealthy memory change is often not clear. One possible early difference is in the ability to remember things after retention intervals (delayed recall). One of the earliest symptom of Alzheimer's disease seems to be the loss of newly learned information after delay intervals (Albert and Killian). Forgetting rates often are the same in healthy adults if information is learned to the same criterion of performance. Alzheimer's patients, on the other hand, show greater delayed recall and more forgetting over the retention interval.

Very accurate cognitive diagnosis, however, remains difficult until the patient reaches the mild to moderate level, when other memory changes occur that are not typically associated with normal aging except for the very old (e.g., semantic memory and visuospatial memory). Category fluency (generating instances of categories) and providing verbal definitions seem to show the greatest sensitivity to early Alzheimer's disease (Hodges).

ANDERSON D. SMITH

BIBLIOGRAPHY

ALBERT, M. S. and KILLIANY, R. J. "Age-Related Cognitive Change and Brain-Behavior Relationships." In Handbook of the Psychology of Aging, 5th ed. Edited by J. E. Birren and K. W. Schaie. San Diego: Academic Press, 2001. Pages 161–185.

BALTES, P. B., and L INDENBERGER, U. "Emergence of a Powerful Connection between Sensory and Cognitive Functions across the Adult Life Span: A New Window to the Study of Cognitive Aging?" Psychology and Aging 12 (1997): 12–21.

CRAIK, F. I. M. "Age-Related Changes in Human Memory." In Cognitive Aging: A Primer. Edited by D. C. Park and N. Schwarz. Philadelphia: Psychology Press, 2000. Pages 75–92.

CRAIK, F. I. M., and LOCKHART, R. S. "Levels of Processing: A Framework for Memory Research." Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 11 (1972): 671–684.

EINSTEIN, G. O.; SMITH, R. E.; MCDANIEL, M. A.; and SHAW, P. "Aging and Prospective Memory: The Influences of Increased Task Demands at Encoding and Retrieval." Psychology and Aging 12 (1997): 479–488.

HASHER, L., and ZACKS, R. T. "Working Memory, Comprehension, and Aging: A Review and a New View." In The Psychology of Learning and Motivation, vol. 22. Edited by G. H. Bower. San Diego: Academic Press, 1988. Pages 193–225.

HODGES, J. R. "Memory in the Dementias." In The Oxford Handbook of Memory. Edited by E. Tulving and F. I. M. Craik. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. Pages 441–459.

JENNINGS, J. M. and JACOBY, L. L. "Automatic Versus Intentional Uses of Memory: Aging, Attention, and Control." Psychology and Aging 8 (1992): 283–293.

MACKAY, D. G., and ABRAMS, L. "Language, Memory, and Aging: Distributed Deficits and the Structure of New-Versus-Old Connections." In Handbook on the Psychology of Aging, 4th ed. Edited by J. E. Birren and K. W. Schaie. San Diego: Academic Press, 1996. Pages 251–265.

NORMAN, K. A., and SCHACTER, D. L. "False Recognition in Younger and Older Adults: Exploring the Characteristics of Illusory Memories." Memory & Cognition 25 (1997): 838–848.

PARK, D. C. "The Basic Mechanisms Accounting for Age-Related Decline in Cognitive Function." In Cognitive Aging: A Primer. Edited by D. C. Park and N. Schwarz. Philadelphia: Psychology Press, 2000. Pages 3–21.

PARK, D. C.; LAUTENSCHLAGER, G.; HEDDEN, T.; DAVIDSON, N.; SMITH, A. D.; and SMITH, P. K. "Models of Visuospatial and Verbal Memory Across the Adult Life Span." Psychology and Aging 17 (2002).

PARK, D. C.; SMITH, A. D.; DUDLEY, W. N.; and LAFRONZA, V. N. "Effects of Age and a Divided Attention Task Presented during Encoding and Retrieval on Memory." Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 15 (1989): 1185–1191.

PARK, D. C.; SMITH, A. D.; LAUTENSCHLAGER, G.; EARLES, J. L. K.; FRIESKE, D.; ZWAHR, M.; and GAINES, C. "Mediators of Long-Term Memory Performance across the Life-Span." Psychology and Aging 11 (1996): 621–637.

PARK, D. C.; SMITH, A. D.; MORRELL, R. W.; PUGLISI, J. T.; and DUDLEY, W. N. "Effects of Contextual Integration on Recall of Pictures by Older Adults." Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Science 45 (1990): P52–P57.

SALTHOUSE, T. A. "The Processing-Speed Theory of Adult Age Differences in Cognition." Psychological Review 103 (1996): 403–428.

SMITH, A. D. "Age Differences in Encoding, Storage, and Retrieval." In New Directions in Memory and Aging. Edited by L. Poon, J. Fozard, L. Cermak, D. Arenberg, and Larry Thompson. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1980. Pages 23–46.

SMITH, A. D., and EARLES, J. L. K. "Memory Changes in Normal Aging." In Cognitive Changes in Adulthood and Aging. Edited by F. Blanchard-Fields and T. Hess. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996. Pages 192–220.

SMITH, A. D.; PARK, D. C.; EARLES, J. L. K.; SHAW, R. B. and WHITING, W. W. "Age Differences in Context Integration in Memory." Psychology and Aging 13 (1998): 21–28.

ZACKS, R. T.; HASHER, L.; and LI, K. Z. H. "Human Memory." In The Handbook of Aging and Cognition, 2d ed. Edited by F. I. M. Craik and T. A. Salthouse. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000. Pages 293–358.

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