Treatments for Memory Loss and Alzheimer’s Disease
One Client’s Story
Mary is a 47 year old woman who has had significant memory loss since she was eight years old. She compensated for her memory loss for several years but then when she could no longer compensate, she spent her time trying to keep track of her life. Piles of lists stacked all over her house and office. Lists of items she never completed, sticky notes on every surface trying to remind her of obligations and information. She was desperate for an answer. She visited several neuropsychologists who put her on Paxil. Immediately she started having strange thoughts. “If I just run out into the street that big truck will run me over flat like one of those old cartoon characters! Wouldn’t that be funny?” Or, “I think I can fly! Those other people think they can fly, but I know I can.” Luckily Mary stood back and thought, “It must be the medication.” She quite the Paxil and the strange thoughts stopped, but her memory continued to be as bad as always.
She heard about a doctor in California who did SPEC scans and she thought that must be answer. She and her husband drove to the clinic and had the tests done. The doctor said, “You have a brain just like our Alzheimer’s patients! I’ll just give you a little Paxil.” When Mary explained she was unable to take Paxil the doctor responded with, “We’ll give you a lower dose.” When Mary still refused the medication she was told to find herself another doctor.
At that point Mary was devastated. After all this doctor had just told her she “had a brain like an Alzheimer’s patient” what could she do?
Eventually Mary found BrainAdvantage. She called and scheduled a free 15-minute consultation. In the conversation she was asked if she had any head injuries. “Well, now that you mention it, I was hit by an oncoming car while I was riding my bike at age eight! No one has ever asked me that before.” Finally, an answer to why she had had memory loss since that time.
But she was afraid to come through the program. What if it didn’t work? After all, she did have a brain just like an Alzheimer’s patient…Finally she decided to go through the program.
We did extensive assessments and found her entire frontal lobes had very little activity. We customized a program for her. The first day she was so tired after completing the training she had to sleep for five hours, the next day the same, next day four hours. It took her two weeks of training before she could train and not sleep. Mary kept a journal and at the 10th session she actually wrote, “This is never going to work!” But it did. By the twentieth session she had burned out the motor on her shredder as she completed all tasks on lists and shredded them! Her memory and cognitive skills were better than they had been in years, even her hearing was improved. She had her life back. But now she was angry. She had been told she had a brain like an Alzheimer’s patient without telling her there was something available she could do besides take a pill. Mary was also worried that she might slide back into her old self if she stopped the program. So after a few months we brought her back to reassess her. She was actually better than when she left. It has been a few years since Mary went through the program. She is healthy, happy and working to spread the word to others that BrainAdvantage really does work!
About Memory Loss
Our memory gives us the ability to retain and recall incidents and information. But more importantly, it allows us a sense of self, to feel comfortable with those we know and to use past experiences as a guide in new situations. However, our memory doesn’t always work perfectly. It can be affected by brain injury, stress, diet, and lack of sleep, medications, lack of exercise, alcohol and drug abuse as well as natural aging. As people grow older, it may take longer to retrieve memories. Some adults joke about having a “senior moment.” However, sometimes memory loss can be more serious or even life-threatening.
The good news is, there is help!!
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a brain disorder named for German physician Alois Alzheimer, who first described it in 1906.
In the past century, scientists have learned a great deal about Alzheimer’s disease. The most important is that AD is not inevitable. There are actions you can take to increase your resistance and stave off AD’s effects. (Waldemar, 2007)
In 1986, Dr. David Snowdon, then at the University of Minnesota, began a scientific study involving 678 Catholic nuns from the School Sisters of Notre Dame. This research project, often called the “Nun Study,” is one of the most significant long-term research studies ever done on aging and Alzheimer’s disease. (Snowden, 2002)
One of the primary questions the Nun Study researchers attempted to answer was how pathology in the human brain related to AD symptoms. Over the period of the study, the only method to determine brain pathology was through autopsy on deceased study participants. During autopsy, researchers observed physical changes in the brains of the study participants. They then attempted to relate their pathological observations back to the lifetime behavior observed in the participant. One of their research questions was: Did every participant with AD-related physical brain changes display symptoms of AD while alive?
The results from the Nun Study were exciting. They showed that approximately one-third of the sisters whose brains had displayed post-mortem AD changes (plaques and tangles) had shown no behavioral symptoms of dementia while alive. In fact, these women scored normal results in all mental and physical tests! The researchers hypothesized that the reason they were unaffected was Cognitive Reserve.
Cognition is defined as the process of thought and includes communication, problem-solving, learning and memory. Cognitive Reserve lets individuals with greater cognitive skills delay symptoms of AD in spite of underlying changes occurring in their brains. Lifestyles including intellectual pursuits, physical activities, and socializing are associated with slower cognitive decline in the healthy older set.
There is also evidence from functional imaging studies that subjects engaging in such activities can clinically tolerate more AD pathology. It is possible that training your brain and body creates more efficient cognitive function and therefore delays the onset of dementia.