Memories Lost to Alzheimer's May Not Be Gone Forever

New research 'shatters a 20-year paradigm'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 18, 2016 5:08 PM CDT
Memories Lost to Alzheimer's May Not Be Gone Forever

For decades, scientists believed the memories lost by Alzheimer's patients were gone for good, the Washington Post reports. But a new study out of MIT and published in Nature shows those memories may still be somewhere in the brain and, what's more, could be recoverable. That's because, contrary to earlier scientific thought, the problem in Alzheimer's patients appears to be memory recovery, not memory storage. "Even if a memory seems to be gone, it is still there," Nobel Prize-winning scientist Susumu Tonegawa tells the Post. "It’s a matter of how to retrieve it." A Harvard neurology professor tells the Boston Herald the research conducted by Tonegawa's team "shattered a 20-year paradigm of how we’re thinking about the disease."

In the study, mice genetically altered to have Alzheimer's-like symptoms didn't seem to remember an earlier electric shock and fear further shocks. That changed when researchers stimulated brain cells associated with short-term memory in the mice. And while it opens the possibility of one day helping Alzheimer's patients recover their lost memories, it's not a process that is repeatable in humans and further research is needed. "We’re still many years away from knowing if it would be possible to restore lost memories in people," one expert tells the Guardian. (Scientists believe they've found a link between Alzheimer's and herpes.)

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