How dementia affects memory

In this video, Gina Cooper explains how dementia affects the brain, using the bookcase analogy.

Gina uses two bookcases, a sturdy oak one and another made out of plywood, to explain how different parts of the brain are affected by dementia.

The plywood bookcase represents the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain which stores memories. The oak bookcase represents feelings and emotions.


She explains, “As you give this plywood bookcase a shake, the books, or memories, start to fall. People then can’t remember what they had for breakfast, who their carer was this morning or if they’ve had a wash.”

On the shelf below is memories from their retirement. “So somebody might wake up one day and wonder why their friend hasn’t come to pick them up to take them out. This is because they’re living in this moment.”

The more the bookcase is shaken, the more books fall. The more the dementia progresses, the more memories people lose.

“If you leave after having an argument, they might not remember why they feel sad and lonely but they will still have those feelings.”

“Sometimes grandchildren are mistaken for their children. This is because these previous memories are gone, and the people are just remembering what their children looked like when they were 8 or 9 and not what they look like at 40 or 50.”

In the other bookcase is our feelings and emotions. “You can shake this bookcase and the books, or feelings, are still going to stay on the shelf.”

This means that although people may not remember what they have done that day, they still have the emotions attached to what they have.

“If you have taken your mum or dad out to the seaside and you’ve had a fantastic day, you’re mum or dad might come home and not remember  that they’ve been out for the day. But what they will is feel happy and loved. That’s because all these feelings will be still there.”

So, although people with dementia are likely to forget what they have been up too, they will still have the emotions and feels attached to activities even when it has been forgotten.





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