Dementia | Overview

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How does the brain store information?

Information is stored in different parts of your memory. Information stored in recent memory may include what you ate for breakfast this morning. Information stored in the short-term memory may include the name of a person you met moments ago. Information stored in the remote or long-term memory includes things that you stored in your memory years ago, such as memories of childhood.

How does aging change the brain?

When you're in your 20s, you begin to lose brain cells a few at a time. Your body also starts to make less of the chemicals your brain cells need to work. The older you are, the more these changes can affect your memory.

Aging may affect memory by changing the way the brain stores information and by making it harder to recall stored information.

Your short-term and remote memories aren't usually affected by aging. But your recent memory may be affected. For example, you may forget names of people you've met today or where you set your keys. These are normal changes.

What is dementia?

Dementia is a brain disorder that makes it hard for people to remember, learn and communicate. These changes eventually make it hard for people who have dementia to care for themselves. Dementia may also cause changes in mood and personality. Early on, lapses in memory and clear thinking may bother the person who has dementia. Later, disruptive behavior and other problems can create a burden for caregivers and other family members.

Dementia is caused by the damage of brain cells. A head injury, stroke, brain tumor or disease (such as Alzheimer's disease) can damage brain cells and lead to dementia.

Source

Early Diagnosis of Dementia by KS Santacruz, M.D. and D Swagerty, M.D., M.P.H. (American Family Physician February 15, 2001, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20010215/703.html)

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 01/11
Created: 09/00

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