ESL 91 SPRING, 2001

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Mei Jan

Mei Jan Wong
ESL 91
Spring, 2001

Project Topic: Discuss the psychological and physiological aspects and factors involved in human memory. You should discuss both normal memory as well as memory disorders such as amnesia and Alzheimer's disease.

Human memory is the ongoing mental process of retaining and recalling knowledge or experience. It influences the learning process of each person. The memory system is located in the brain and the brain stem at the top of the spinal cord. Since the memory system is made of brain tissue, your memory performance is directly affected by the state of your brain. Poor health, fatigue, malnourishment, and substance abuse can all lead to memory problems. There is one common disease of memory-Alzheimerˇ¦s disease. In Alzheimer's disease, people lose memory, mostly in the old age.

There are three components of human memory; these allow us to receive, encode, store, organize, alter, and retrieve information. These three components are called sensory memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory. Sensory memory, the first stage of memory, holds an exact record of incoming information for a few seconds or less. Then, it can be transferred to the second memory system-Short-term memory. Short-term memory holds small amounts of information for relatively brief periods, such as when a person is about to dial phone number, and someone asks a question. The person answers, turns to the phone, and find that he/she has forgotten the number. It is very difficult to do more than one task at a time in Short-term memory. In our daily lives, not everything we see or hear is kept in memory. We only pay attention to what we want to see or hear, and select what information moves on to short-term memory.

If something is important or we need to remember it permanently, the information will be stored in long-term memory. Any information we need to remember, we must put through these three stages of memory. Moreover, normal function of memory depends on these three components.

The failure to encode information is a common cause of forgetting. When memory fails us, it does so in three ways. It can fail to register something initially in memory; it can fail to retain over time that which was successfully registered; or it can fail to remember something, despite successful registration and retention. One of these failures may not lead to many serious problems. However, the impact of these failure consider seriously. One common disease called Alzheimer's Disease, involved with memory loss.

Alzheimer's Disease causes people to lose mental function; this condition is known as dementia. This type of dementia proceeds in stages and gradually destroy memory, judgement, language, and eventually disturbs the ability to work daily tasks. The disease usually begins after age 65, and the risk of Alzheimer's Disease goes up with age. Moreover, young people also may have Alzheimer's Disease, but it is much less common. The causes of Alzheimer's Disease still remain a mystery; however, scientists believe that the major risk factors for the disease are age and family history. Other factors include a serious head injury, genetic (inherited) factors, environmental factors and biochemical factors.

In the mid 1970's, scientists discovered that people with Alzheimer's Disease have biochemical factors which involve a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Since acetylcholine is involved with the process of forming memories in the brain, if the level of the acetylcholine drops somewhat this may cause Alzheimer's Disease. Also, the research shows that genetic factors may be involved in more than half of the cases of Alzheimer's Disease. There is evidence of a link between Alzheimer's disease and genes on three chromosomes: X14, 19, and 21. The apoE4 gene on chromosome 19 has been linked to late-onset Alzheimer's disease, which is the most common form of the disease. Environmental Factors also play an important role in causing Alzheimer's disease. Scientists have found aluminum, zinc, and other metals in the brain tissue of people with Alzheimer's disease. They believe these metals may cause Alzheimer's disease.

The symptoms of Alzheimer's disease begin slowly; at first, the only symptom may be mild forgetfulness. People with Alzheimer's disease may have trouble remembering recent events, activities, or the names of familiar people or things. Simple math problems may become hard for these people to solve. Such difficulties may be a bother, but usually are not serious enough to cause harm. However, as the disease goes on, symptoms become more visible. For example, people with Alzheimer's Disease may forget how to do simple tasks. They can no longer think clearly; and they begin to have problems speaking, understanding, reading, or writing. Later on, people with Alzheimer's disease may become anxious or aggressive. Eventually, people with Alzheimer's disease may need total care.

There is no treatment that can stop Alzheimer's disease. However, there are drugs that can reduce the symptoms. The drug tacrine (also known as THA or Cognex) may alleviate some cognitive symptoms. Beside drugs, caregivers are very important for the people with Alzheimer's Disease, because people with Alzheimer's Disease need more and more care when the disease gets worse.

From this research, I read a lot of information about Alzheimer's disease. I know that Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia in older people. However, it also happens in some of the young people. There are 4 million people suffer from Alzheimer's disease in the United States. From my point of view, the prevention is very important for every disease. Moreover, I think the nutrition is very important for the individual body. The nutrition is the fundamental of the health; people must have a strong body in order to prevent the diseases.

Memory is an active, computer-like system that encodes, stores, and retrieves information. Humans appear to have three components of memory system. These are sensory memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory. These three components of memory system have serious impact during remembering. One of these components disturb in memory may lead to memory problems. However, there are still many other factors cause many diseases in memory. Alzheimer's disease is a terrible illness that disturbs the memory. It disrupts the way the brain works. Alzheimer's disease affects the parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language. There is no specific cause of the disease. However, some research shows that genetic, environmental, and biochemical factors have influence on Alzheimer's disease. There are no cures for the disease, however, some drugs are available to reduce the symptoms and slow down the development of the disease. Scientist still have a lot of research on this disease, I hope the disease will be cured in the future.


Encyclopedia American, 100th Anniversary Library Edition, 1, 1995. P. 646-650.

Myers, David G. Exploring Psychology, Fourth Edition. New York: Worth Publishers Inc., 1999. p.42

Manktelow James. Introduction to Memory Techniques, 20/10/95, Retrieved from the World Wide Web on 5/9/01.

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