Alzheimer's Symptoms, Stages, Memory Loss and Cures
(PD) - Van Gogh- Vase with Forget Me Nots and Peony
Copyright ©2014-2021 - updated February 06, 2021
Alzheimer's is classified as a disease in the sense that a disease is any degradation of a body organ's normal function. Alzheimer's is not a viral or bacterial disease, and though the actual causes of Alzheimer's are still an unknown to science, since Alzheimer's is apparently related to brain degradation then Alzheimer's is deemed to be a disease. People do not actually contract a contagious 'Alzheimer's disease' simply because no such (known) contagious disease actually exists, and since humans are not identical, then therefore it is highly unlikely that there would be only one single originating cause of Alzheimer's for everyone.
From the non-medical point of view, Alzheimer's is as a philosophical classification of individuals who are nearing or have exceeded the social norm of memory loss, cognitive impairment, and dementia.
Alzheimer's-like symptoms can be caused by physical injury, malnutrition, emotional instability, unbridled selfishness, stress, cultural behavior, lack of sleep, brain tumors, alcoholism, drug abuse, or any number of other causes. As a general rule, the diagnosis of Alzheimer's indicates a physiological disorder, an actual abnormal physical change within brain cells, but since there is not yet a scientific understanding of why the changes occur, nor an understanding of whether the changes are in fact the cause of Alzheimer's, then at present all Alzheimer's hypotheses remain to be best guesses (the hypotheses are very good guesses, but still not quite perfect). Perhaps a favored method of interpretation is to simply view (1) cognition and memory loss that can be restored through adequate rest, positive emotions, and other forms of help are therefore psychological in nature and not Alzheimer's, while (2) cellular decay — accompanied with Alzheimer's symptoms — is indicative of a brain disease and cannot be restored nor corrected.
Nevertheless, prolonged negative psychological states can become precursors of physiological Alzheimer's, and so therefore it is important for an individual to be aware that their behavior and environment may in time lead to the physiological state of Alzheimer's.
A build-up of the amyloid-beta protein within the brain has recently been popularly believed to be a cause and an evidence of Alzheimer's, but amyloid-beta is also believed to be a necessary protein for brain function. If an Alzheimer's patient were to take drugs that eliminate or disrupt amyloid-beta formation, then the individual's symptoms would likely worsen and not improve. The use of an amyloid-beta blocker appears to be an attempt to mask an effect rather than to cure the cause.
Nevertheless, an abnormal accumulation of proteins (e.g. amyloid-beta) is precisely what should be expected within a type 5 memory structure. Unfortunately, at present there is no scientific theory of memory much beyond the two philosophical hypotheses of the Atkinson-Shiffrin multi-store model and the Craik-Lockhart levels-of-processing model, plus the physics-based Hameroff-Penrose Orch OR theory, which simply means that science does not yet know why the abnormal accumulations of proteins occur, nor what their precise effects might be.
The Atkinson-Shiffrin multi-store may be the most popular model used for studying memory, and the model is generally divided into the three philosophical classifications of (1) sensory register, (2) short-term store, and (3) long-term store. The long-term store is further divided into the classifications of explicit memory and implicit memory. Explicit memory is given a further sub-classification of declarative memory, which is subcategorized into episodic memory and semantic memory. Implicit memory is given the sub-classification of procedural memory. As western philosophy has normative ethics, applied ethics, virtue ethics, and on and on without first knowing what an ethic actually is, so have some hypotheses of memory been created with philosophical terms without first knowing what a memory is, how a memory functions, nor how a memory is created.
The Craik-Lockhart levels-of-processing model generally interprets memories as being dependent on the individual's depth of mental processing itself. The theory suggests that a person's depths of interest in a sensorially perceived thing will dictate how well the individual will create and store the memory: low interest would result in low or no memory, and high interest would result in high quantities and qualities of memories. To a degree, the Craik-Lockhart model might possess some compatibilities with the Hameroff-Penrose Orch OR theory.
The Hameroff-Penrose Orch OR theory (The Consciousness in the universe - A review of the ‘Orch OR’ theory by Stuart Hameroff and Roger Penrose (Physics of Life Reviews 11 (2014) 39–78) is a good reference for modern physics-based interpretations of consciousness and memories. Conceptually, the Orch Or theory presents the idea that microtubule structures exist within brain cells, and memories are stored within the microtubules' molecular patterns. On the surface the theory appears plausible, in part because it references the inner exchange of analog information (e.g. gigahertz, megahertz, and other frequencies within the microtubules) instead of the computer-like binary on-off information exchange theories that are still popular in primary schools.
Nevertheless, the Orch Or theory still has a few bugs to be worked-out. Perhaps the immediate obstacle to overcome is that if (1) microtubules (MTs) are the means of storing memories in the brain, plus (2) "Dendritic–somatic MTs are capped by special MAPs that prevent de-polymerization, and are thus stable and suitable for long term information encoding and memory", plus (3) "In Alzheimer’s disease, tau is hyper-phosphorylated and dislodged from destabilized MTs, forming neuro fibrillary tangles which correlate with memory loss", plus (4) "At that time, according to this proposal, a moment of conscious experience occurs, and tubulin states are selected which influence axonal firing, encode memory and regulate synaptic plasticity", and (5) "Stable microtubule patterns correlate with memory," then (6) a memory should be permanently lost if a MT is damaged or is in any manner degraded. If Alzheimer's were (1) the effect of a MT 'unraveling' or becoming irreparably tangled, then (2) it would be most rational to also assume that the lost memories could not be regained, and yet (3) there are claims that some new drugs and other treatments have had some success in reversing Alzheimer's, then (4) as a whole, the MT theory and pharmaceutical approaches cannot yet be accepted as plausibly compatible as they currently stand today. The Orch Or theory is not fully wrong per se, but rather it is missing several important features that are first needed to explain why the theory's claims are worthy of attention, and the pharmaceutical approach needs a plausible explanation of why the drugs were believed to have reduced Alzheimer's symptoms.
"'EPR-like' non-local correlation between separated microtubules. This is not at all clear, but such things are very hard to establish (or refute) experimentally. Bandyopadhyay’s group is testing for 'wireless' resonance transfer between separated MTs." A yard stick cannot measure weight, and a volt meter cannot measure resonant molecular transfer: physics is at the door, but there will be needed a measuring device that can measure what has not yet been discovered by science.
I personally have no problem with the hypothesis that microtubules might be used for processing some forms of 'thoughts,' but I also recognize that (1) memories are not single things that exist all by themselves (as if binary bits of data), (2) that there are numerous actions occurring during each memory type that define and quantify each memory, (3) there are several different types of memories that function differently than all other types of memories, and therefore (4) the current scientific theories are best used for their accumulated data and not to be used as an explanation of what constitutes consciousness or memories.
At present there is no potential of a medical solution for Alzheimer's within the foreseeable future.
It is my chosen preference to not speak of the most important background facts of any topic that I write about, but here I will briefly state that it is plausible to 'correct' some memory loss caused by physiological changes if specific features still exist in the brain and surrounding tissue. Similar to all other diseases, early treatment has the best chance of success.
An additional difficulty with Alzheimer's is that the initial symptoms of memory loss, false memories, and dementia are common among most if not all humans of all ages. The normal human has serious lapses of memory, frequent false memories, and mild dementia, but the behaviors are not always easily recognized in society because most all other humans exhibit the same behaviors, and thus it is perfectly normal to normal humans for normal humans to have erratic memories. Generally, for most people, the initial phases of Alzheimer's began when the first thoughts and memories were formed in the womb.
Dream states can also create their own forms of false memories, loss of memories, and dementia, and dream states are generally universal among all humans. Alzheimer's is not a behavior new to the human mind, but rather it is more like an incorrect assembling of natural mental states.
Of the five to seven stages of Alzheimer's commonly listed by medical literature, the first stage is deemed to have no observable symptoms. The literature proposes the assumption that memory loss must begin occurring suddenly and not be of a pre-existing cause. The literature appears to insinuate that the symptoms are not recognizable by a normal medical examination, which is likely true because a normal human will not recognize a normal thing to be abnormal.
As memory loss increases, the sufferer has difficulty remembering what was seen and heard the moment before, which again is parallel to common dream states. As an example, in front of an individual can be placed three opaque boxes of different colors, with each box enclosing a different item. Opening the first box, the individual sees that there is an apple. Closing the box and opening the second box, the individual sees an orange, but the person has already forgotten what was in the first box, and does not remember that the first box had been opened. I have spent a full thirty minutes opening and closing the 'boxes' without the individual yet remembering what was in any box, as well as the individual giving the wrong name to what is seen (i.e. the person might call an apple a banana). A degree of memory loss is common in all age groups, but when a strong sensory perception cannot be retained as a memory and as a thought to be held and used for the next thoughts, then at that time the individual has a serious problem and cannot function well enough to safely live independently.
Some intelligence tests measure memory similarly. The inability to consciously retain multiple sensory perceptions and thoughts in the mind while other thoughts occur is today deemed to be normal for humans with average and above-average intelligence. A recent example is the so-called 1964 5th Grade Literacy Test that all participating Harvard students allegedly failed. The 1964 'test' requires the ability to think of and to analyze multiple thoughts simultaneously, which was a normal mental ability fifty years ago for some fifth graders, but now that the ability appears to no longer be normal, many individuals now deem the 'test' and all similar tests to be "impossible." Although in 1964 participants who failed similar tests might have been demoted to a lower elementary class or placed in a school for children with special needs, today the participants will not be diagnosed with Alzheimer's-like symptoms because the participants' memories and cognitive abilities are now normal relative to today's society.
The stages of Alzheimer's progressively worsen until false memories reach a recognizable frequency. The false memory syndrome is an intriguing creation of memories that are factually incorrect but are firmly believed to be true by the sufferer. Of the countless common examples, an individual diagnosed with Alzheimer's symptoms might think that they are the sister to a daughter, or a dreamed event was real.
An almost universal type of false memory is the acceptance of hearsay (not exactly a true false memory, but rather a precursor). One example is of biographers and newspaper reporters who give their invented opinions of a historical figure, and the public then accepts the opinions as true fact. The history of William Sidis is a good sample for illustrating that all age groups and all IQ groups tend to believe hearsay and then self-create a false memory that supports and defends the hearsay. Another example is of two or more individuals who invent false claims against another person for the purpose of harming the other person, and in time the accusers come to fully believe that their invented accusations had truly occurred. The above false memory examples usually possess the ability to be corrected if the individual is presented with sufficient evidence that the accusation is incorrect, but an Alzheimer's individual's false memories usually cannot be corrected regardless of evidence.
A very useful illustration of creating false beliefs and memories is within the abortion debates. Within the known advantages and disadvantages of abortion, each side of the debate picks and chooses which facts support the side's preexisting opinions, while the other facts are ignored. Both sides of the debate claim that their facts are the most important, while neither side knows that other facts exist that might sway a choice towards a different direction. What if the Hameroff-Penrose Orch OR theory were added, of microtubules being a form of a 'brain' within single-celled animals who can think, learn, and choose consciously? Microtubules are present in human cells prior to and during conception, which means — relative to the Orch Or theory — that the cells are conscious living beings even before conception. All common abortion debates are based upon a false assumption that the adult interpretation of consciousness can be the only truth. If a conclusion is formed without first knowing the sequenced origins of the topic, then the conclusion was invented and very much false.
Philosophical debates are based upon hearsay, unfounded beliefs, an absence of possessing all facts, and a selfish desire to force one's unfounded opinions on another person. The philosophical method of debating unknowns is in effect a training of the mind to think false things to be true, which is a symptom of Alzheimer's and of slumbering.
The false memory syndrome is not a thing that began with no symptoms one moment and then possessed all symptoms the next moment; false memories are a perfectly normal state of mind, and often a necessary means of adapting to one's culture. When false memories exceed cultural norms, then that is when there is a problem. An example of a full false memory is when an individual assumes that another person has committed a deed — perhaps took one's purse — and then the person's memory becomes as if a real memory of having actually seen someone taking the purse. To the Alzheimer's sufferer the memory is as real as any other.
The final stages of Alzheimer's include advanced dementia. Common symptoms may include personality changes, emotional instability, yelling, cussing, and seeing and hearing things that do not exist. Death often follows soon afterwards.
Of the Alzheimer's individuals that I observed during their last years, it was common for them to 'see' past relatives and to believe that they were once again of a younger age. It appeared reasonable to me to hypothesize that if new memories are analogous to a pyramid, with each new 'thought-layer' being the sum of the lower layer's thoughts (individuals skilled with self-observation recognize the effect), then it was plausible that a mental decay would strip upper layers off while leaving the individual with the thoughts and memories of their youth. The Orch Or theory lends an additional interpretation of the effect, that of microtubules unraveling. Of the individuals that I personally observed and had known most all of my life, it was obvious of their reverting back to the behaviors that they exhibited when younger, which again suggested to me that there was indeed a form of mental disintegration with a personal history based on previous thoughts and memories. It is currently my opinion that the physiological changes have very likely exceeded any possible correction when an individual's memories have decayed so far as for the individuals to believe that they are of a younger age.
In my own personal research I had discerned five general primary behaviors of memories: (1) nascent, (2) duration, (3) pretend, and two others (4 and 5) that I will not speak of at present. Although my first two classifications have vague parallels to the three Atkinson-Shiffrin classifications plus the Craik-Lockhart levels-of-processing model, the Atkinson-Shiffrin and Craik-Lockhart models are noun-based — not formed upon verb-based actions (i.e. the descriptions of causes are not based upon observed evidence) — and thus the models hold no immediate value to me except for their collected data. My types 3, 4, and 5 have rough similes within the Hameroff-Penrose Orch OR theory in concept, but with the use of verbs and not with mathematics.
All of the symptoms of Alzheimer's are very similar to what is expected with the deterioration of any structured protein in types 3, 4, and 5. Knowing the effects of a deteriorated protein is simple, but discerning the precise reasons why the deterioration occurred is not as easy, which is evidenced by science not yet showing an indication of earnestly pursuing the topic.
My own personal interest in Alzheimer's was raised when several relatives and friends recently became afflicted with Alzheimer's symptoms (some of the individuals have already died). On one side of the relatives' family tree is a string of relatives who had Alzheimer's, and so of course I was curious why some of the family acquired false memories and dementia, and I was also curious why others in the family did not develop the same problems.
An Alzheimer's organization lists several behavioral traits that allegedly tend to help prevent Alzheimer's: socializing, higher education, physical exercise, and mental exercise. The trends may apply for the norm, but the recent string of relatives and friends with Alzheimer's included individuals who had the beneficial behaviors, while other individuals with few or none of the behaviors were not diagnosed with Alzheimer's. There was, however, one predominate trait amongst the healthy individuals that suggested of itself to be a plausible behavior that might indeed help to prevent the debilitating effect of Alzheimer's symptoms.
Examples of Good and Bad Memory Retention
From firsthand experience: My wife recently asked me a question about my choice of sweaters to wear for the day, and I chose to tease her with my much-preferred mischief of giving a long-winded in-depth description of my thoughts and choices during the moments preceding and during my choosing a specific sweater early that morning. As my wife's eyes quickly glazed-over from boredom — her regretfully realizing that she had inadvertently opened a one-way door of discussion that would not soon be closed — I began by listing several choices including the choice of a gray t-shirt — to be worn under the sweater — that was chosen because of its density of weave being remembered to be felt warmer than the other tees, and because of the day's weather being predicted to be chilly, but since the desired t-shirt was not in the closet I chose instead a different gray t-shirt because it had a similar warmth because of a different but sufficiently dense weave, and because the high neckline would protect my back from the discomfort of the labels that were in the turtleneck sweaters (I have been procrastinating cutting them out), and I chose the cream-colored turtleneck because it was the only color hanging in the closet because I had worn all of the blacks and burgundies the days before and they had not yet been washed, and on and on, and as I drew another breath to begin going into the in-depth details that would describe each thought's emotional tenses and relationships to all other thoughts, plus the spatial locations and durational relativities of each thought held in the consciousness while all other thoughts in chronological order were being analyzed relative to the stationary thoughts, my wife conceded defeat and motioned to me that she had heard enough (I have been married long enough to know what a woman's empty stare implies… a total lack of appreciation for my grand humor. ;-) ) It is normal for most humans to not remember many memories, and it is also normal for humans to not have an in-depth self-analysis while making choices simply because the thoughts never consciously occur. I am aging rapidly, and always am I under an intense stress from the outside world, but I do still remember my each thought applicable for my own life, as do good chess players remember their every analysis of every game played during a tournament. Life ought to be similar for all thinking humans.
From hearsay: A well-known [paraphrased] Zen story is about Zenno, who had invested ten years into the practice of Zen and believed that he had attained a master's level. When Zenno entered master Nan-in's house during a rainy day, Nan-in asked Zenno if Zenno had left his shoes and umbrella outside. Zenno replied yes, because it was the polite thing to do to not take one's wet shoes and umbrella into another person's home. Nan-in then asked Zenno which side of the shoes did Zenno leave the umbrella. Zenno did not remember which side of the shoes he had placed the umbrella, which showed that Zenno was not always conscious, and thus he had not attained a master's level of Zen.
Zen and the few other self-awareness practices exist because most humans are not conscious of their every choice, every thought, every memory, every emotion, every sensory perception, and every reason for everything. If humans were fully conscious at all times, then Zen would not exist; but Zen exists.
The story of Zenno is an example of normal memories. To the Zen master all unenlightened humans behave as with Alzheimer's — normal people are asleep, perhaps literally — but to normal humans, they see nothing missing in their memories, and they do not realize that their behaviors mirror the symptoms of Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's does not have a point of beginning, only a fate of ending.
Zen is popularly considered to be an ultimate goal of awareness, but Zen too has many deficiencies. To merely remember where an object was placed is too elementary to be deemed of importance. The individual who is self-aware should also be conscious of all thoughts, as well as be able to describe with tremendous detail each and every emotion and sensory perception to the tiniest details. When a new word is learned, the individual ought to be able to describe the multitudes of thoughts, memories, and analyses that occurred while the new word was being placed into memory. Science and philosophy do not know what the words ethic, memory, and consciousness mean because the words were memorized without the individuals being consciously self-aware during the acts of memorizing the words.
The question here is whether Nan-in also asked Zenno what the differences of temperature were, which sounds were heard, what muscle tensions were felt of the feet and body, which aromas were smelled, which emotions flowed, which analyses flowed, which parallel thoughts flowed, which angularities of analyses flowed, which analyses stood still, which analyses were tied to the other while being separate from others, what was felt of Zenno's own clothing upon his skin, durations of time between each step, and on and on and on and on. To the normal man it is normal to not be consciously aware of one's own life, as is it normal to most Zen masters to not be aware of theirs.
The mastery of philosophy is not the mastery of logic, and the mastery of Zen is not the mastery of awareness. Beyond Zen are several options including the choosing of foundational emotional states that further color and create improved states of consciousness, self-awareness, and physical health. To my knowledge there may be no limit to what is possible, but the existence of a possibly does not infer a plausibility of the thing occurring. Also, to my knowledge no current scientific or philosophical theory of consciousness, memories, or Alzheimer's is based upon the theorists' own self-awareness, which sums to two inescapable conclusions, (1) no scientifically valid evidence was presented to support the theories, and, thus, (2) the theories were simply best guesses.
It is popularly believed that around five percent of Alzheimer's families have a genetic disposition to develop Alzheimer's. Whether this might be true or false I do not know, but I have been told of DNA results that claim an individual has a specific racial heritage, and yet all known documented historical evidence supports a different lineage, which shows me that DNA testing is not as perfected as many people want to believe. Whether the DNA results were valid, hearsay, or perhaps accidentally switched from another person's I do not know, but at present I have no reason to believe that Alzheimer's symptoms might be directly linked to DNA simply because I do not believe that there yet exists a full knowledge of DNA. To me it appears far more plausible that some families tend to interact with negative behaviors, and it may be more due to the behavioral environment that the family members acquire full Alzheimer's symptoms. Many ancestral traits are indeed passed-down to descendants, but I personally do not recognize how a strand of DNA could be the sole answer, although if combined with the Orch Or idea of microtubules and residual forms of emotioned consciousness functioning with several simultaneous influences, then yes at that point I believe that that provides a plausible scenario worthy of further investigation. Nothing else in the universe comes into existence as a singularity, and thus neither should an inherited trait be a singularity of DNA.
I am humored that some individuals have claimed that a person with Alzheimer's can have their memories restored by taking a pill. The individuals are, of course, true believers that modern medicine can cure anything and everything with a pill, but the immediate humor is that the individuals are — in effect — insinuating that a pill can not only magically contain a person's memories, but somehow too each pill magically knows to only implant one person's memories while not implanting someone else's memories. The individuals, of course, know nothing of the mind, of consciousness, of memories, of physics, nor anything else, and it is within that great void of knowledge and thinking that the individuals can leap to believe the false belief that a pill can cure anything anyone wants.
If Alzheimer's is — in part —the physical result of degraded microtubules (or any other biological structure), then there will be no pill that can magically know how to repair the microtubules, and thus all destroyed memories will forever remain destroyed. I am, of course, omitting the most important aspects of type 3, 4, and 5 memories, but at present it is sufficient to say that the urban myths of there being medications to reverse Alzheimer's are indeed myths.
The intriguing question here is to ask where memories are stored, and since it is still not mathematically plausible for the human body to store a hundred years of memories, then where are the memories stored? The microtubule hypothesis estimates that there are around one-trillion microtubules per cell — although I am confident that no researcher has plucked-out each tubule one at a time to count them — which may appear to give a plausible explanation of how a lifetime of extremely narrow memories can be stored by an organic robot, but the hypothesis is not feasible for thinking humans.
Before any medication can be developed to usefully counteract Alzheimer's, first there needs to be an understanding of how memories are formed and retained, and such an understanding is likely to never occur within the current models of scientific research, which simply means that a useful medication cannot be developed for a thing that is unknown.
The Agony of Alzheimer's
Of the individuals with Alzheimer's that I have observed, they did not experience the intensity of agony as what their relatives experienced. For family members and friends who care for the person, it can be one of the most stressful and agonizing experiences in life to be in the presence of an Alzheimer's sufferer. The Alzheimer's false memories, loss of memories, false accusations, and mood swings can simply be devastating because every personality trait of the person can be lost or changed into a negative form. The person's body and voice might appear to remain the same, but often the emotional toning of the voice changes, the body's aromas change, the thoughts change, and generally the individual that we knew and loved dies long before the body dies.
Of everyone that I have spoken to who had relatives with Alzheimer's, the individuals all said the same general thing: it is a horrendously hard thing to experience, and we all sympathize with everyone who has friends and family with Alzheimer's.