David Troxel famously said that if you have met one person with Alzheimer’s disease you have met one person with Alzheimer’s disease. Each person who has Alzheimer’s is different. Each responds differently to drugs. Each has different interests and enjoys doing different things. But the Alzheimer’s brain goes through very similar changes in everyone affected, and the trick to understanding Alzheimer’s is knowing how those changes progress. For example, the hippocampus is generally the first part of the brain to be affected by the disease. The hippocampus is responsible for creating memories. Specifically, it is where new memories and experiences are turned into long-term memories. The memories are then moved to other parts of the brain for storage and retrieval. This early damage to the hippocampus is the reason that difficulty remembering recent events and spatial disorientation (like getting lost in familiar places) are two of the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease – Stages
This progression of the disease through the Alzheimer’s brain is responsible for the stages of Alzheimer’s that are so familiar. The hallmark plaques and tangles do not do their damage indiscriminately but follow a predictable path. The short film above describes that path and the behaviors and symptoms that result as different parts of the brain are affected. We have written quite extensively about the stages, and the associated symptoms and behaviors. This Three and a quarter minute film simplifies what can be a very difficult subject. You will see it in several places on this website; we feel it is that important.