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Making Memories

wizard of oz

 

 

 

 

 

 

Think fast! What was it that the scarecrow wanted in the movie, “The Wizard of Oz?”

Was it new shoes? Courage? A brain? A heart? To go home?

Perhaps you knew the answer as soon as you read the question. That would be an example of what is called the “recall” function of memory.  If you didn’t know the answer right off the bat, but were able to pick it out from the choices that were listed, that would be an example of what is called the “recognition” function of memory.

The scarecrow wished to have a brain. The human brain weighs about three pounds and is an amazingly complex structure. Besides memory, the brain also is home to all cognitive abilities and activities, including attention, focus, learning, and decision-making, as well as movement, balance, creativity, and emotion.

The speed at which the brain processes information varies from person to person. Generally, the speed of processing begins to slowly decline starting at about age 25, but normal cognitive aging should not interfere with everyday functioning and independent living. In fact, about 85% of adults age 65 and older do not show significant decline in memory.

But what about forgetfulness? Things like forgetting where we left our car keys, or our eye glasses, or what we went to do or get from another room, or what someone’s name is. Forgetfulness is no cause for alarm unless it begins to interfere with or hamper daily activities. It’s one thing to forget where we left the car keys; it is quite another to forget what they are for.

The overall process of memory has three steps. First, the information or experience is inputted and we acquire a memory. Next, the memory is stored. Lastly, memories are retrieved when needed. At this time, most research regarding age differences associated with memory is focused on how the memories are acquired, and how they are retrieved. Research suggests that with age, distractions are more disruptive, and older adults are less able to retrieve their memories from storage if not given enough information, cues or clues. This causes forgetfulness, such as problems finding the right name or word, or having the information at the tip of the tongue, so to speak.

Many older adults experience modest changes in memory. However, a sudden loss of memory or significant confusion should be considered prompts to seek immediate medical counsel.

Sometimes, people hesitate to get their concerns checked out because they fear the possible diagnosis. In the case of memory problems, they most often fear a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. But it helps to realize that memory problems can be related to many other factors, and are oftentimes reversible with proper medical care, and if the diagnosis is Alzheimer’s disease or any other dementia, early intervention is extremely important.

Picture Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bd/The_Wizard_of_Oz_Haley_Bolger_Garland_Lahr_1939.jpg

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