A Silent Explanation for Memory Loss

Silent strokes may be contributing to memory loss among elderly

(RxWiki News) Developing memory loss as you age? The culprit for memory loss in some elderly patients may be linked to silent strokes that caused small pockets of dead brain cells.

About 25 percent of older adults suffer from silent strokes, meaning it could be a large contributor to the development of dementia in later life.

"Make an appointment with a neurologist if you notice memory problems."

Adam M. Brickman, a study author from the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain at Columbia University Medical Center, pointed out that the research is innovative because it examines both silent strokes and hippocampal shrinkage simultaneously.

The hippocampus is the portion of the brain involved in memory forming, organizing, and storage.

During the study researchers used MRI to scan the brains of 658 individuals over the age of 65 who did not have dementia. Patients also participated in tests to measure memory, language, processing speed and visual perception. They found that 174 of the patients had experienced silent strokes.

Patients who had previously experienced silent strokes tended to score worse than those without silent strokes, regardless of the size of the hippocampus.

“Given that conditions like Alzheimer’s disease are defined mainly by memory problems, our results may lead to further insight into what causes symptoms and the development of new interventions for prevention.

Since silent strokes and the volume of the hippocampus appeared to be associated with memory loss separately in our study, our results also support stroke prevention as a means for staving off memory problems,” Brickman said.

The study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, was published in the Jan. 3 issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Review Date: 
December 28, 2011