It is well known that patients suffering dementia lead a troubled existence due to memory loss. The situation plummets further if they lead uninteresting lives. An estimated 700,000 such patients live in The United Kingdom and most of them live in solitary confinement. This is the worst that can happen to such patients; lack of mental stimulation, social activity and a fun filled life can plunge them into deeper despair.
The study, published in the journal Nature, is the most recent to demonstrate the positive effects of lifestyle changes in those suffering dementia.
During the study, researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge induced memory loss in mice. Then, they worked on the gene p25 in one set of mice, which shrunk their brain causing a huge learning problem and loss of synapses. These sets of mice were 'cage-alone'. Another set of mice were exposed to a stimulating environment with colorful toys of different shapes. They were also allowed to be in the company of other mice.
The mice that received constant stimulation with toys, company of other mice, performed well in the memory tests, corroborating the finding that it is possible to regain the lost memory with a certain amount of mental stimulation and training. Study leader Dr Li-Huei Tsai said: "This recovery of long-term memory was really the most remarkable finding. It suggests that memories are not really erased in such disorders as Alzheimer's, but that they are rendered inaccessible and can be recovered."
The research suggests elderly patients with dementia may realize positive outcomes if they are constantly stimulated and lead interesting lives.
Calling this research "fascinating", Dr Susanne Sorensen, of the Alzheimer's Society, said, "However, by demonstrating that lost memories can be accessed again these results offer hope of a better understanding of what happens to memories as dementia develops," she said.