Health Blog

Researchers from the University of California-Los Angeles Easton Center for Alzheimer's Disease Research and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging have published the first small study of a novel personalized comprehensive program to reverse memory loss. Their first 10 participants carried the diagnoses of Alzheimer disease, amnestic mild cognitive impairment, and subjective cognitive impairment. The intervention was a 36-point therapeutic program involving comprehensive changes in diet, brain stimulation, exercise, optimization of sleep, specific pharmaceuticals and vitamins, and multiple additional steps that affect brain chemistry. Within 3-6 months of the program's start, nine of the first 10 participants displayed subjective or objective improvement in memory. Of six patients who had to discontinue working or were struggling with their jobs at study onset, all were able to return to work or continue working with improved performance. Improvements have been sustained for as long as 2.5 years from initial treatment. One of the 10 patients with late-stage Alzheimer disease did not improve.

A minimally supervised exercise program improved balance, mobility, fear of falling, and quality of life in a randomized controlled trial of patients with Parkinson's disease (PD).

The exercise program also led to a reduction in falls in patients with milder PD but not in those with more severe disease.

"These results are unique because they were achieved with an exercise program in which more than 87% of the prescribed exercises were undertaken independently by participants at home," Colleen Canning, PhD, associate professor, physiotherapy, University of Sydney in Australia, told Medscape Medical News.

"The low-cost, minimally-supervised exercise program tested is this study should be recommended as an intervention for improving mobility and reducing fall risk in people with mild PD," she added.

The study was published online December 31 in Neurology.

How Are Memories Made? & On a related note, can you summarize how memories form and are preserved?

Dr De Brigard: This is actually a difficult question, for which we only have the general shape of an answer, because many of its details are still unknown or unclear. Moreover, as it happens in neuroscience—and in all of biology, to be precise—these sorts of explanations involve many levels of description.

In the case of memory, we are talking abut changes that occur at the molecular level, the synaptic level, the cellular level, and even at the level of neural assembly and networks. That being said, when talking about memory formation and preservation, scientists usually separate three different stages: encoding, consolidation, and retrieval.

"Encoding" refers to the process in which information that is experienced becomes suitable to be stored in memory. For the case of episodic memories—ie, memories about particular personal events, the spatiotemporal contexts of which we can remember—this process requires one to rehearse in working memory the information to be stored.