About dementia

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Changes in the brain

Changes in a person's behaviour can be a sign of damage to certain areas of the brain. Below are descriptions of what each area of the brain does and how damage to that area can cause specific changes.

Limbic system

  • Affected early in Alzheimer's diseases
  • Involved with memory and emotions
  • Links the lobes of the brain, allowing them to connect behaviour with memories
  • Controls emotion and basic needs (such as sleeping and eating)

Changes that may be seen if damaged:

  • Difficulty finding objects and remembering where they were placed
  • Suspicion
  • Irritability, depression or anxiety

Temporal lobes and the hippocampus

  • Temporal lobes: This area controls how you learn new things and commit things to your short-term memory.
  • Hippocampus: This is where verbal memory (word memory) and visual memory are understood and acted on. Verbal memories are words -- memories of what we read, say or hear. Visual memory lets us recognize objects, faces and places to guide us around our environment.

Changes that may be seen if damaged:

  • Lapses in short-term memory
  • Forgetting recent events
  • Living in the present moment
  • Loss of vocabulary (words) skills
  • Difficulty understanding what others say
  • inability to recognize familiar faces, objects or places

Parietal lobes

  • Put activities in a sequence, such as putting clothes on in the right order, or using tools. It also involves doing tasks that need a logical sequence, such as starting and driving a car.
  • Control our ability to understand spatial information, such as where we are in a specific environment, and where other objects are.

Changes that may be seen if damaged:

The problems will vary depending on whether the left or right side of the brain is affected.

  • Speaking in general terms rather than specifically
  • Being unable to express thoughts clearly in writing
  • Difficulty handling bank accounts or paying bills
  • Getting lost easily
  • Difficulty getting dressed
  • Balance and walking difficulties

Frontal lobes

  • Help us think of and begin activities and let us plan and organize our actions
  • Help us use our social judgment and monitor our behaviour (such as knowing what behaviour is right for which situation, interpreting the feelings of other people and monitoring our own actions)

Changes that may be seen if damaged:

  • Appears apathetic, uninterested
  • Stops hobbies or other activities previously enjoyed
  • Quickly loses interest in an activity, seems content to sit, does not respond to others
  • Withdraws from others
  • Is unable to stop an activity, repeating it over and over

Occipital lobes

  • Control vision and the ability to see and combine colours, shapes, angles and movement into meaningful patterns.

Changes that may be seen if damaged:

The occipital lobes are not usually directly involved in Alzheimer's disease, but the sections around the visual areas that allow us to make sense of what we see can be affected. When this happens, there may be problems with perception, such as loss of depth vision or inability to see movement.


Last Updated: 08/14/12
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