The latest news about Alzheimer’s

Written By:  Gayle Horton

The University of Iowa has done research on the use of appropriate choices of entertainment for older adults with dementia.

The brain converts new information into memory in the hippocampus--an area of the brain that's usually damaged in dementia patients. Long-term memories are still accessible, but new memories can't be processed. So a patient can remember an old friend, but can't remember that the friend paid a visit just an hour ago.

Even so, the visit makes a big difference.

The University of Iowa researchers explored this phenomenon with a two-part experiment.

In part one, a group of patients (all with hippocampus damage) were shown sad film clips, such as the scene in Forrest Gump where Forrest is alone at his wife's grave. These clips produced strong reactions, bringing some of the patients to tears.

Within 30 minutes of the last clip, all the patients had forgotten they'd watched the clips.

But in the Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences, the authors of the study write, "The patients continued to experience elevated levels of sadness well beyond the point in time at which they had lost factual memory for the film clips."

Part two of the study followed the same design, but with funny or inspiring film clips. And the result was the same. Within minutes, the film clips were forgotten, but good feelings remained long after.

In an NPR report about the study, Justin Feinstein, leader of the UI team, offered this advice for caretakers: "Telling them a simple joke, calling them up on the phone, giving them a visit, could actually have these enormous positive benefits."

We have over 5.3 million people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States and there is very little entertainment available for their enjoyment. The Journey Remembered DVDs were designed to entertain people with memory loss by creating access to deep rooted memories of the past with uplifting visual images and beautifully created music designed to relax and entertain the viewer.

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