Dr. Mayo – The Hippo Trick

How mnemonics and other resources can help Alzheimer’s patients

by Dr. Mayo – October 10, 2017

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that affects the brain in a variety of ways. First plaques and tangles, cells that destroy and kill our own brain cells, attack our hippocampus. This is where we hold a lot of memories, specifically tied to emotions. When this area is attacked, we typically forget short-term information, like where we put our keys, what we just read, appointments we made. As the plaques and tangles continue their tour, they move towards the front of our brain, the frontal cortex, where language develops, planning, logic, and decision-making happens. As a result, people lose their sense of decisiveness, organizational skills, ability to reason or think through the pros and cons of choices they make. These two areas, the hippocampus and frontal cortex, lose functioning and are considered to cause mild Alzheimer’s disease.

Further progression results in what’s considered moderate Alzheimer’s disease, where increased memory loss and confusion take place, recognition of close family and friends is lost, stories are repeated, complex task functioning is lost, and more assistance is needed. Typically, the plaques and tangles at work in the mild form of this disease continue disrupting our brain’s functioning. Emotion regulation is lost, and sometimes people can either feel emotions really strongly, or not at all. Some people can feel more detached, while others feel more irritable. The way information is taken in through the senses is distorted, where hallucinations, paranoia, and conspiracies consume a lot of time and energy (comprising the later or more severe form of Alzheimer’s); unfortunately, the senses of hearing, seeing, touching, smelling, and taste change. People feel like their taste buds change, and smell unusual odors, that other people do not smell.

Older memories are next to disappear. Loved ones may forget names, even faces. Basic abilities like brushing teeth, eating, walking, sitting, getting dressed take a lot of energy, effort, and mental capacity not available. Balance and coordination are compromised. Lastly, breathing and heart rates slow down to such serious lows as to cause death, though it usually takes years to get to this point.

This is a lot of information to remember, which is why I developed a quick and easy way to remember some of these details- through two mnemonics. “Hippopotamus’ pucker their lips” and they “lick enormous scales of big crocodiles’ backs. These things are quite true, too. If you want to check this our for yourself, just visit this site and scroll to the bottom, where you can watch videos of hippos puckering their lips and licking crocodiles. This might also help you remember that Alzheimer’s develops in the hippocampus by plaques and tangles that kill the language and logic centers of the brain, followed by the emotion system, sensory information processing, oldest memories, balance, coordination, and breathing. Mnemonics have also been shown to help those in their early stages of Alzheimer’s to remember information better and keep their mind active, slowing down the plaques and tangles. Although no cure or reversible procedures have been introduced. It is nice to know that when we are active in the early stages, we can prevent the process from speeding up. Other research and new discoveries are being made.

For more research and resources on Alzheimer’s, please check out these resources. A new and local forum for caregiver’s or those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is starting THIS FRIDAY, October 13th from 2:45-4:15 pm on MU campus in Retan Hall, room 103. See the flyer at the end of the feature for more information. Dr. Nicolle Mayo and Dr. Mary Daly will be hosting this group every second Friday of the month. You may contact them at nmayo@mansfield.edu or mdaly@mansfield.edu or via phone at 570-662-4779 (Dr. Mayo’s office phone). We hope to provide support for those who need it.

Idea/Concept: Dr. Nicolle Mayo
Videography: Andrew Moore
Video Editing: Andrew Moore
Writing: Dr. Nicolle Mayo
Anchor: Dr. Nicolle Mayo

Produced by Vogt Media
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