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Probable Causes of Alzheimer Disease, Or The Disease Of Forgetfulness

By Roya Monajem, Tehran

Comparison of a normal aged brain (left) and an Alzheimer's patient's brain (right). Differential characteristics are pointed out
(source: wikipedia)

Having had the privilege to be able to make a close observation of a group of close aged relatives when some of them developed the contemporary prevalent Alzheimer Disease, the question was raised what is its difference with the known old-age-Dementia? Why in a single family for example, a brother, a sister and the son of another sister 'catch' this new disease, while the mother of the same son is just having the old one? Why the parents of some certain close friends who were forced for any reasons to leave the country were affected in a greater number by this sorrowful disease than the parents of those remaining here? What may constitute the 'mental-emotional' causes of Alzheimer Disease?

The answer most probably lies in the question of "identification."

So let's go over the most basic things which we all 'identify' with in life.

The first is the geographical place we are born in, the so-called birth place, also home.

The second is our parents or any grown up who takes their place for us.

Then come our siblings, relatives and friends.

And as life continues, we study, get our diploma or higher education and find a job, with which we gradually identify, and then get married and are also identified with our spouse -more deeply and overwhelmingly if marriage lasts for long - and of course our children, if any.

There are two other major things with which we identify which are not so obvious, one is Time, perhaps first noticed by witnessing how it gets dark and light, cold, moderate, hot, how trees are covered with white gorgeous things called blossoms and then wear a green garment which subsequently become amazingly colorful and finally 'bare' in the cold weather called winter, and... including the increasing number of the candles put on our birthday cake, in case the tradition of celebrating birthdays runs in the family, in short the concept of chronology and calendar. And the other thing is our mother tongue.

Then it may happen that after all the above identifications get deeply rooted, we suddenly face phenomena like, revolution, war, economic crisis, forced or semi-voluntary emigration, retirement, loss of dear ones (whether due to above phenomena or mortal diseases), thus being torn away from one or several of them simultaneously. The result naturally is: We get lost.

In order to illustrate the point let's take the example of the case of an over fifty years old man who emigrates with his own family to a foreign land, even if quite voluntarily particularly if he fails to find a job there.

He first of all loses his 'home', his life-long relatives and friends, his job, his mother tongue, his haunt, his calendar... and if unfamiliar with the language of his new 'home' then it becomes additionally more difficult to replace any of these lost things with which he has identified himself with all his life. He resembles a new-born living among strangers. True, his beloved wife and children are still around, but is that enough to cover up and heal such overwhelming trauma at that age, when on top of all this what is called 'midlife crisis' has either already begun or on the way!

Naturally a process of introspection begins, and the more he stops communicating with outside, the more he turns into a thinking tank.

Now, the part of the brain in charge of thinking is the frontal lobe which according to scientific findings is where the sufferers lose many of its neurons. Before that the process that takes place is that the hyperactivity of this part of brain like hyperactivity in any other parts of the body is accompanied with lack of oxygen. Lack of oxygen is in turn accompanied by inflammation and finally death of the involved cells. With respect to the brain because of being encased in the limited space of the skull, the situation becomes graver.

The process of 'forgetting' thus begins, and naturally when noticed another stress is added as the result of fear of the situation resulting in more thinking leading to the acceleration and intensification of the above vicious circle.

Alzheimer begins with the loss of recent memory. Frontal lobes are also responsible for a function called 'association' which simply and briefly means that outside stimulations automatically run to the places where this stimulation was first encountered in life. A mere scent takes you back whether you want it or not to your grandmother's house. A person in a totally new environment seldom meets such 'reminders' either. This includes nearly all sensory stimuli when we emigrate from our country in a different geographical place with different language, culture, traditions to another country. Everybody knows that memory is built on 'repeated remembering' and the less the number of 'reminders' the less memory is built and the more we forget.

Those aged people around who are now simply suffering from old-aged Dementia are those who have not gone through so many changes or loss of major identifications. That's the difference.

In general it can be predicted that the greater the number of loss of 'bases' of identification in adult life, the greater would be the probability of 'catching' Alzheimer Disease. Of course, it is not only quantity, but also quality, that is the depth and intensity of the 'base' of identification which in the last analysis determines the fate. For a person, who identifies overwhelmingly with his/her spouse, or profession, loss of that may produce the same trauma, i.e. getting lost and losing interest in outside. One of the major outcomes of identification is the sense of belonging. And the sense of belonging is one of the most important causes of making life worth living and thus giving motivation to relate to outside. When there is no motivation to connect with outside due to this loss, then how can recent memory be built from this perspective too?

The conclusion is we better 'think twice' before bringing about radical changes in life when already over 50, the age of mid-life crisis. And if forced to do so for any reasons, in order not to invite Alzheimer home, we better get involved with the new environment as much as possible, to familiarize ourselves with all its sensory stimulations, in short make utmost efforts to turn it to our real second 'home,' find a haunt, make friends and look for anything that can help us to replace our previous bases of identifications.

... Payvand News - 11/15/10 ... --

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