Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease

Select one of the learning or memory disorders. Explain the causes behind the disorder and describe how the normal processes are affected. 

Please cite and reference appropriately

Just a note: this should be a more academic discussion now that you have gained considerable knowledge about neuroanatomy.

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It would appear that Alzheimer’s affects nearly 5 percent of the population over the age of 65 years of age (Wickens, 2005). That is a big number and will get bigger as the baby-boomers start to reach retirement age en-masse. The main culprit in cases of Alzheimer’s seems to be a loss of brain cells but is also paralleled by microscopic amyloid plaques and excessive neurofibrillary tangles (NFT’s). Also, the entorhinal cortex and the hippocampus seem to be affected greatly by the disease, partially explaining the loss of memory. As with most, but not all, neurological disorders Alzheimer’s appears to have both a genetic and environmental component implicated in the onset of the disease. As to the study mentioned in the text, increased brain activity in early life seems to delay the onset of the disease. I guess if you don’t use it you lose it, huh? The case of HM might shed some light on the clinical presentation of Alzheimer’s. HM had his hippocampus removed and it is the hippocampus that is affected by the degenerative effects of Alzheimer’s. The hippocampus seems to play a specific role in memory. To quote Wickens (2005) directly, “Using Hebbian terminology, this could mean that the hippocampus is responsible for setting up circuits of reverberatory activity that enable structural change in neurons to take place elsewhere in the brain” (p. 245). If the hippocampus is damaged during the onset of Alzheimer’s, then this “reverberatory” activity might be inhibited; thereby inhibiting the neurological basis of memory.   

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Wickens, A. (2005). Foundations of biopsychology, 2e. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Hall. 

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