TOWARDS A CURE?!

 

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This week’s post is something of a potpourri of happenings all of which are relevant to every day life at the heart of Memory Matters.

Some weeks I look around me and the eyes of this volunteer see a myriad of different activities all focussed on the disease that so far has no cure. At Memory Matters  we are busy running Social Day Programs and the Connections Club, counseling care-givers and care partners, as well as teaching others in the community how to achieve improved brain health. The latter program is called “Brain Boosters” which I have referred to in my previous posts and will do so again today. In addition to this normal workload the staff are busy helping to run the annual charity golf tournament on November 7th and preparing for the National Candle Lighting in support of the national initiative by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. The latter will be on Sunday November 13 at Memory Matters facility between 4 and 6pm. All are welcome!

Unfortunately Hurricane Matthew disrupted both the golf and candle lighting but I’m delighted to report that both are going ahead albeit with changed venues and arrangements. Such is the every day life of a community not-for-profit organization!

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We are always hesitant to post news that might bring false hope to care givers and their loved ones but recent news published in the US and in England does potentially offer some medium to long term hope for a drug that may yet provide a more effective way of controlling the disease.

This week the Guardian Newspaper in England published a comprehensive article about an Alzheimer’s drug developed by the Merck company that has been shown to successfully target the most visible sign of the disease in the brain, raising hopes that an effective treatment could be finally within reach.

A small trial of the drug was primarily aimed at assessing safety, but the findings suggest it effectively “switched off” the production of toxic amyloid proteins that lead to the sticky plaques seen in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. If the tablet, produced by pharmaceutical giant Merck, is also shown to slow the pace of mental decline – a crucial question that a major clinical trial should answer when it reports next year – it could be the first treatment for Alzheimer’s to be licensed in more than a decade.

Prof John Hardy, a neuroscientist at The University of College of London, England (UCL) who first proposed that amyloid proteins play a central role in Alzheimer’s disease, welcomed the results. “People are excited,” he said. “This is a very nice drug and I’m sure Merck are feeling very pleased with themselves.”

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Now let’s go back to Brain Boosters. Week six of our journey was truly amazing! The subject was “Memory Methods” and Mnemonics (a learning technique that aids information retention).

My experience as a volunteer at Thursdays Connections Club meant that I was already familiar with “chunking”, the use of acronyms, and rhymes and rhythms that all aid information retention. Briefly, chunking is an effective way of remembering long strings of information by breaking it down into chunks. e.g. a telephone number 843-xxx-xxxx. We can also use chunking to organize shopping and action lists.  Acronyms like KISS (keep it simple sweetie) stay in our memory forever as do Rhymes that remind us how many days are in each month the colors of the rainbow. Rhythm in songs such as “Do Re Mi” from the “Sound of Music” are unforgettable. I think everyone in our day programs can sing this song!

What I had not learned  before was “Imagery” also known as the “Method of Loci”. This was a revelation and for no other reason I would strongly recommend the Brain Boosters program to anyone who wants  to improve their memory!

Loci means location or place(s). Loci its the plural of Locus. Not surprisingly the origins of Loci come from the ancient Greek and Roman culture. According to the Roman Cicero, this method was developed by the poet Simonides of Ceos, who was the only survivor of a building collapse during a dinner he attended. Simonides was able to identify the dead, who were crushed beyond recognition, by remembering where the guests had been sitting. From this experience, he realized that it would be possible to remember anything by associating it with a mental image of a location. The loci system was used as a memory tool by both Greek and Roman orators, who took advantage of the technique to give speeches without the aid of notes. There were no TelePrompTers in 500BC!

Cathee explained that we could select any location that we had spent a lot of time in and knew well.

Then we were to imagine  walking through the location, selecting clearly defined places–the door, sofa, refrigerator, shelf, etc. Imagining oneself putting objects that we needed to remember into each of these places by walking through the location in a direct or trusted path.

Through a practical exercise we realized that we needed a trusted direct path and clearly defined locations for objects to facilitate the retrieval of these objects. It worked for all 22 participants in the program. Impressive!

We also watched a movie where the host was taught how to use this Method of Loci to recall each of the 81  Movie of the Year Oscar winners. Astonishingly he did it!

So when I next want to remember my song play list for use at Memory Matters I might see John Lennon opening the side door to “Imagine”, Paul McCartney pouring OJ in the kitchen and saying “Let it Be”, George Harrison feeding the parrots and chirping “Something in the Way She Moves Me” and, Ringo Starr walking in with our Club Members with a “Yellow Submarine” on his head and holding a banner that says: “With a Little Help From My Friends”!

Please share this if you believe  it would help someone and please call Memory Matters in confidence if you would like more information on our Memory Resource services: 1 843 842 6688.

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