I found the following article very interesting as it is happening to me, and I could not understand why many times I can no longer remember many of the special events from my past. I started noticing many years ago an inability to recall family members or events, and a couple of years ago discovered I have zero recollection of a very close friends wedding. When this happens, conversations and photos do not restore or prompt my memory, and it feels like someone has taken an eraser and simply rubbed out parts of my personal history. A bit like this image of the Mona Lisa! When I think about it too much, this gives me a deep sense of sadness, as if part of my identity is slowly disappearing…
Published today by DPS News
A study by researchers at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) is reportedly the first to demonstrate that patients with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) lose the emotional content/colour of their memories.
These findings explain why FTD patients may not vividly remember an emotionally charged event like a wedding or funeral.
The research team discovered that a region of the brain, called the orbitofrontal cortex, plays a key role in linking emotion and memories.
“This step forward in the mapping of the brain will improve how we diagnose different types of dementia,” says the study’s lead author, Associate Professor Olivier Piguet.
The fact that we vividly remember events infused with emotion – like birthday parties – is well established.
Patients with FTD – a degenerative condition that affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain – show profound difficulty understanding and expressing emotion. Yet the extent to which such deficits weaken emotional enhancement of memory remains unknown.
To find out, the NeuRA team showed patients images that prompt an emotional reaction in healthy people. Healthy control subjects and patients with Alzheimer’s disease remembered more emotional than neutral images. The FTD patients, however, did not.
Professor Piguet says: “Up until now, we knew that emotional memories were supported by the amygdala, a brain region also involved with emotion regulation. This study is the first to demonstrate the involvement of the orbitofrontal cortex in this process.
“This is an important development in how we understand the relations between emotions and memory and the disturbance of the emotional system in this type of dementia.”
NeuRA researcher, Fiona Kumfor, says the findings will help carers better understand why their loved ones may find personal interactions difficult.
“Imagine if you attended the wedding of your daughter, or met your grandchild for the first time, but this event was as memorable as doing the groceries. We have discovered that this is what life is like for patients with FTD,” she says.
“This is the first study that has looked at memory and emotion together in FTD and that is exciting. We now have new insight into the disease and can demonstrate that emotional memories are affected differently, depending on the type of dementia.”