Research finds hope for more accurate diagnosis of memory problems

More accurate tests could be created to diagnose diseases such as Alzheimer's or memory problems stemming from head injuries, leading to earlier intervention, according to new findings from the University of East Anglia (UEA).

The research involved investigating the components of memory using a combination of tests and neuroimaging – a method that could be used to create a diagnostic tool for distinguishing between different types of dementia, memory damage from stroke or forms of amnesia caused by head trauma.

Dr Louis Renoult, a lecturer in UEA's School of Psychology, said: "We are creating a new model of how we look at memory that's more nuanced and gives us a better picture of how memories, particularly long-term memories, are imprinted."

The findings, published today in The Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, are part of a project led by Dr Renoult with contributions from academics at the University of Ottawa, the State University of New York College at Old Westbury, and the Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest, Toronto.

Dr Renoult said: "If patients lose , they struggle with knowledge of everyday objects in the world, and have trouble communicating.

"But if you provide some personal application to those objects – for example showing a dog to someone who kept a dog as a pet – the patient may demonstrate they've retained memory of that object.

"The research shows this retained memory performance may result from the brain's automatic activation of personal episodes by related knowledge.

"We haven't previously been aware of this intermediate form of memory, which combines semantic knowledge with autobiographical, or 'episodic' memory.

"The hope is that advanced methods could be developed to test this newly discovered intermediate form of , leading to better approaches to rehabilitation."

More information: "Autobiographically Significant Concepts: More Episodic than Semantic in Nature? An Electrophysiological Investigation of Overlapping Types of Memory." Renoult L, Davidson PS, Schmitz E, Park L, Campbell K, Moscovitch M, Levine B. J Cogn Neurosci. 2014 Jul 25:1-16. [Epub ahead of print]. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25061931

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Infections damage our ability to form spatial memories

Jan 24, 2014

Increased inflammation following an infection impairs the brain's ability to form spatial memories – according to new research. The impairment results from a decrease in glucose metabolism in the brain's memory centre, ...

Could a simple smell test help spot Alzheimer's early?

Jul 14, 2014

New research suggests that a faltering sense of smell might signal the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, and that an inexpensive, low-tech smell test could spot who needs more extensive screening for dementia.

Recommended for you

'Chatty' cells help build the brain

11 hours ago

The cerebral cortex, which controls higher processes such as perception, thought and cognition, is the most complex structure in the mammalian central nervous system. Although much is known about the intricate ...

'Trigger' for stress processes discovered in the brain

Nov 27, 2014

At the Center for Brain Research at the MedUni Vienna an important factor for stress has been identified in collaboration with the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm (Sweden). This is the protein secretagogin ...

New research supporting stroke rehabilitation

Nov 26, 2014

Using world-leading research methods, the team of Dr David Wright and Prof Paul Holmes, working with Dr Jacqueline Williams from the Victoria University in Melbourne, studied activity in an area of the brain ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.