Oct 25, 2015

Alzheimer’s and the Brain’s Navigation Network

I just finished reading some interesting new information on the Brain's Navigational Network.

This newly discovered network called "grid cells" could explain, in part, why persons afflicted with Alzheimer's have greater difficulty navigating an area, and why they sometimes seem lost or confused in certain environments.

This newly discovered network called "grid cells" could explain, in part, why persons afflicted with Alzheimer's have greater difficulty navigating an area

By Alzheimer's Reading Room

This research reminded me of how my mother would sometimes freeze - just stop -when encountering groups of people or certain situations.

For example, when my mother had to step down off the sidewalk and into the street she would always stop and freeze. I learned if I held her hand, and stood patiently, she would finally make the step down. It did seem to me like she thought the step was into a hole at first. This seemed to explain her reluctance to walk.

This new research alludes to the use of our navigational system and compares it to those of us with normal functioning brains to those that live with dementia. In other words, how memory and navigation can differ.

So I am bringing this research up so you might think more broadly about situations you encounter with your loved one, and then better understand, why they are acting the way they are, and what you might do about it.

Another example that came to mind is that we, the caregivers, might be very familiar with a certain surrounding or place. And perhaps, we assume our loved one will also be familiar with this surrounding or place. However, as Alzheimer's progressed it is unlikely that the person can and will remember new places.

The importance of this I think is we must remember all the time that a persons brain afflicted with Alzheimer's does not work like ours works.

Sometimes simply understanding "how" or "why" can really help us in our cargiving effort.

In other words, it is easier to be understanding, caring, and patient when you understand "why". Instead of getting exasperated in the same situation over and over, if our brain understands "why", it makes it that much easier for us to operate.

I learned that once I started to understand the "how", "what", "when", "where" of my mother and her behavior, it was much easier for my brain to accept her actions and behavior as - Normal.

The discovery of the grid cell network won the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology in 2014.

You can read the research summary by following the link below. You will have to think broadly as you read; and then, try to relate the findings to your own caregiving effort. I hope this helps.

Alzheimer’s disease tied to brain’s navigation network

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Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob is a recognized expert, writer, speaker, and influencer in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community worldwide. The Alzheimer's Reading Room contains more than 5,000 articles and has been published daily since July, 2009.
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