For the past five years, you’ve taken the same route home from work. But lately, you keep coming to a stop at the same crossing because you can’t decide whether to turn left or right.
We may wonder on numerous occasions throughout our daily lives whether memory lapses are indicative of cognitive decline, normal aging, or perhaps the onset of dementia.
Our initial thought might be that it’s because of mental impairment. And it’s true that as we age, our brain cells get smaller like the rest of our body. Additionally, they store less of the chemicals required for communicating with other neurons and maintain fewer connections with other neurons.
But not all memory problems are brought on by changes in our neurons as we get older. The influencing elements are frequently less significant, such as being exhausted, anxious, or preoccupied.
It’s Ok to Forget
Our memory system is designed in such a way that forgetting occasionally is common. This is a benefit rather than a fault. In addition to taxing our metabolism, maintaining memories can also make it difficult or impossible to retrieve particular memories when needed.
Unfortunately, we aren’t always in charge of deciding what should be remembered and considered important. Our brain takes care of that for us. Generally speaking, our brain favors social information (the most recent rumors), but quickly ignores abstract knowledge.
When memory loss starts to interfere with your regular day-to-day activities, it becomes a concern. If you forget to turn left or right, it won’t be a big deal.
It is not typical to forget how to drive, where you are supposed to be going, or even why you are behind the wheel. These are indications that more research is necessary and that something might not be correct.
Mild Cognitive Impairment
Mild cognitive impairment is the bridge between memory loss brought on by aging and memory loss that is more serious. The level of disability may stay the same, become better, or go worse.
However, it suggests a three to five times greater risk of developing future dementia-like neurodegenerative diseases. About 10 to 15 percent of patients with mild cognitive impairment will get dementia each year.
The capacity to carry out regular activities is gradually and profoundly impacted over time for those with mild cognitive impairment. Along with memory loss, it can also cause issues with language, thinking, and decision-making.
A diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment can have positive and negative effects. It supports the notion that memory decline in older persons is atypical. It also fuels worries that it will progress to dementia. However, it might also lead to the investigation of potential treatments and future planning.
Being Lost Can be a Warning
As the most prevalent form of dementia, impaired navigation is regarded to be a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. According to research using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the first regions of this degenerative illness to be impacted are those that are vitally responsible for our spatial environment memories.
Therefore, a rise in the frequency of being lost could be an indication of future problems that are more severe and widespread.
There is an incentive to design and employ standardized assessments to identify deficiencies as early as possible given the predicted relationship between decreases in orientation and dementia.
The development of a test that is reliable, affordable, and simple to use on a busy clinic day is a particular difficulty.
In healthy young adults, we discovered that the test performs well in predicting normal variations in way-finding ability; nevertheless, we are still assessing the test’s performance in seniors.