Memory loss: emotions remain

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People with amnesia (loss of memory) can no longer remember experiences, but feelings remain for a long time.

People with memory loss (amnesia) can no longer remember experiences, but the feelings remain. In a US study, it has now been possible to observe how this relationship works. Until now, it was assumed that memory fades with memory loss, while emotions remain, but gradually fade as well. Feelings and experiences, so the assumption, are inseparable. Patients with post-traumatic stress disorder react based on their traumatic experiences with sometimes violent emotional outbursts. But what happens when the memory is no longer there? Do the feelings you experience remain in your memory?

Five patients with damage to the hippocampus were observed for the study. Patients with damage to the hippocampus suffer from the fact that the short-term memory no longer transfers what has been experienced in the brain to the long-term memory. The result is that patients with amnesia can no longer remember after a short time. This form of amnesia is similar to the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.

A short film was shown to each of the five test subjects, one film was sad, the other rather funny. After 10 minutes, the participants were asked about the content of the film. But the neurologically ill patients could no longer remember the content of the film. Other participants who had a healthy memory could at least remember up to 30 details of the film. After the film was over, the participants were also asked about their emotions. It became obvious that feelings were much more present even after the film. Sad emotions were much more present than happy feelings. These two emotions also outlived memories of the film. In two amnesia patients, the emotions persisted significantly longer than in the healthy.

Study director Justin Feinstein of the University of Iowa explains: "So a visit or phone call from family members can have a lasting positive effect on the happiness of the patient, even if he quickly forgets the call or visit".

Family members and friends of the patients should ensure a comfortable and friendly atmosphere. The results of the study show that Alzheimer's patients also benefit from positive emotions. In contrast to memories of the experience, experienced emotions do not disappear. (sb, April 14, 2010)

Also read:
Alzheimer's: Is Prevention Possible?
Eye test helps diagnose Alzheimer's

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