The Memory Thief

Angle: To inform readers about Alzheimer’s Disease.

The Memory Thief

By Ariel Chen

Is your Grandma forgetting everything, not tidying her house, or just acts plain weird? Well, you might be thinking old age and forgetfulness are hand in hand. But in reality, it’s not so. The first documented case of Alzheimer's disease was in 1901 on a housewife from Munich named Auguste D. She had a slowly worsening memory, and would be racked with fits at night. When she finally died in a nursing home, she was only 51 years old.

I Hope You Don’t Mind a Little History...

When Dr. Alois Alzheimer first did the autopsy, he found that Auguste’s brain was one third smaller and lighter than a normal human brain. Auguste was suffering from serious mental and physical disabilities. Her speaking was a bit slow and disoriented.

One of the few notes Dr. Alzheimer wrote in the thirty-two page long file of Auguste says:

“She sits on the bed with a helpless expression. What is your name? Auguste. What is your husband’s name? Auguste. Your husband? Ah, my husband. She looks as if she didn’t understand the question. Are you married? To Auguste. Mrs D? Yes, yes, Auguste D. How long have you been here? She seems to be trying to remember. Three weeks. What is this? I show her a pencil. A pen. A purse, key, diary and cigar are identified correctly. At lunch she eats cauliflower and pork. Asked what she is eating she answers spinach. When she was chewing meat and asked what she was doing, she answered potatoes and horseradish. When objects are shown to her, she does not remember after a short time which objects have been shown. in between she always speaks about twins. When she is asked to write, she holds the book in such a way that one has the impression that she has a loss in the right visual field. Asked to write Auguste D., she tries to write Mrs and forgets the rest. It is necessary to repeat every word. Amnestic writing disorder. In the evening her spontaneous speech is full of paraphasic derailments and perseverations.”


The Alzheimer’s Disease, (more commonly known as AD.) is often passed unnoticed. For example, everyone knows that old people forget things, right? Well, not really. AD is usually passed unnoticed until the intermediate stage. The beginning, or the early stages’ symptoms include having ‘mood swings’, acting disoriented, and having trouble driving. Also, the trouble is, the disease is often confused with various diseases such as Parkinson's Disease, Huntington’s Disease, and Frontal Lobe Dementia, so the disease is oftentimes wrongly diagnosed.

What’s Happening? (Part I)

The disease is caused by neurofibrillary tangles and an abnormal amount of protein the brain, blocking neuro pathways. See, the disease starts in the hippocampus, which controls short-term memory. Without short-term memory, “reality” has already happened before. The true reality is gone, wiped clean from the big file cabinet of memory. In a few years, or even months, the hippocampus may also disappear, disintegrated in the skull. That is just the first stage. Caregivers only need to assist complex chores such as shopping or driving the car.

What’s Happening? (Part II)

You know how I said that AD makes people forget things? Well, that actually, that only happens in the second to third, or intermediate-late stage.

That happens because the disease slowly ‘shrinks’ the temporal lobe. The temporal lobe is the little secretary in your brain pulling out the old information for you to see. When the disease ‘attacks’ the temporal lobe, it’s like the secretary has gone on vacation. Forever. In this stage, the patient may have sleep disturbances and are completely out of touch with the world. They may lose interest in favorite activities. Also, a common symptom is acting agitated or paranoid. that is what happens in the brain at the Intermediate stage.

What’s Happening? (Part III)

You’re probably wondering, “So when’s the brain going to disintegrate completely?” At the end of the disease, the brain is reduced to the back of the brain, or the occipital lobe, cerebellum, and Brain stem. At the last of the last stage, the cerebellum and brainstem are affected, making the victim forget how to breathe and how to beat their heart. That is the main fatality of the disease. This interferes with breathing, blinking, and basic motor movements. Gee, that disease is quite hungry.

To Conclude...

Now that you have finished reading my article, I will give you a bit of my own AD observation. I have noticed that when my great aunt was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, she began forgetting a few small things here and there. What have you noticed? (By the way, my great aunt is still on the borderline of early and intermediate.) Besides, no 2 cases of AD are the same. Remember, not all possible symptoms will lead to the disease. So your grandma will be safe. For now.

Works Cited

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"Brain Neuron Forest - Alzheimer's Association." Brain Neuron Forest - Alzheimer's Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2014. Citation 8

Chudler, Eric H. Inside Your Brain. New York: Chelsea House, 2007. Print. Citation 4

Harmon, Daniel E. Life out of Focus: Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 1999. Print. Citation 3

"Help End Alzheimer's." Alzheimer's Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. Citation ?

Molloy, William, and Paul Caldwell. Alzheimer's Disease: Everything You Need to Know. Firefly Books: n.p., 1998. Print. Citation ??

N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print. Citation 9

Sabbagh, Marwan Noel., and Beau MacMillan. The Alzheimer's Prevention Cookbook: Recipes to Boost Brain Health. Berkeley: Ten Speed, 2012. Print. Citation 5

Smith, Patricia Burkhart., Mary Kenan, and Mark Edwin. Kunik. Alzheimer's for Dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Pub., 2004. Print. Citation 1