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December 31, 1993 - Image 63

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-12-31

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.



Memory doesn't have to be fleeting at any age.


ou run into a former
neighbor. You re-
member that she was
originally from New
York, that she has three
kids, that her husband
is a dentist . . . but you
can't remember her
Not to worry, assures
Dr. Guy McKhann, director of
the Zanvyl Krieger Mind Brain
Institute of the Johns Hopkins
Medical Institutions. You're ex-
periencing a recall, not a mem-
ory problem, and it's quite
Eve Glicksman is a writer in

As we age, the brain may
need more time to scan its in-
formation bank. Dr. McKhann
explained, 'We may remember
all these things about someone
but we can't come up with their
name. Ten or 15 minutes later,
his name pops up."
Fifteen years ago, people
used to lump all forms of mem-
ory loss into one big pot, Dr.
McKhann continues. Today,
we're a lot more savvy about dif-
ferentiating among Alzheimer's
disease, senility, psychological
stress and ordinary forgetful-
ness. These are some of the

common causes of
memory loss.

Recall Powers

The fact is that
everyone at times has
trouble remembering
something he reads or
where he parked his car.
A recent survey reveals
that most of us forget an ob-
ject or thought at least four
times a month. Doctors call
this "benign forgetfulness," and
say that it's caused by stress,
depression, normal signs of ag-
ing or poor listening habits.
Dr. Thomas Crook, director
of the Bethesda-
based Memory As-
sessment Clinics
Inc., a private test-
ing and research
facility, says most
How would you describe your ability to remember the following?
Americans think
Very Poor 1 Poor 2 Average 3 Good 4 Very Good 5
their recall powers
are much poorer than
1. The name of a person you just met.
1 2 3 4 5
they actually are.
What people mistake
2. The faces of people you have met only once or twice
1 2 3 4 5
for early Alzheimer's is
more likely a condition
3. Where you placed objects, such as keys,
referred to as age-asso-
glasses, your purse.
1 2 3 4 5
ciated memory impair-
ment. Alzheimer's
4. Specific facts from a newspaper or magazine
strikes fewer than 1
article that you read a week ago.
1 2 3 4 5
percent of Americans
under age 60, and only
5. Names of teachers or classmates from
1 to 2 percent in the 65
your early grades in school.
1 2 3 4 5
to 75 age bracket.
Dr. Crook said, "The
6. What item you were looking for
majority of people think
when you entered a room.
1 2 3 4 5
their memories are
worse than average, but
7. A name or word that is
many times it's that
on the tip of your tongue.
1 2 3 4 5
they failed to acquire
the information proper-
8. A telephone number seconds after it has
ly in the first place. If
been recited by the operator.
1 2 3 4 5
you don't remember a
name, it could be that
9. Where you have stored an important
your mind was some-
item for safekeeping.
1 2 3 4 5
place else when you
were introduced."
10. Where you parked your car in a shopping center
or other congested area.
1 2 3 4 5
Signs Of Aging

Test Your Memory


45 to 50
39 to 44
28 to 38
22 to 27
10 to 21

Above Average
Below Average

Test courtesy of Memory Assessment Clinics, Inc.

Just as we lose mus-
cle tone, our brain neu-
rons, the circuits that
control memory, also
wear thin. Between age
40 and 50, a person may
notice that it takes a lit-
tle longer to learn some-
thing new or to recite a
phone number. Our
ability to memorize

something in the midst of dis-
tractions — say, a name ex-
changed at a party — may also
fall off.
By age 60, 70 percent of us
have some memory impairment
— typically, a 10 percent or
more drop in performance from
age 30. By our 70s, we still have
vivid recollections of childhood
and long-known facts, but our
capacity to remember some-
thing that happened the week
before drops significantly. The
better news is that our abstract
abilities and vocabulary are
more likely to improve with age.
Older adults may feel like
they're forgetting a lot, but it's
partly because they have col-
lected more information over
time. According to one study,
the modern person stores away
one trillion pieces of informa-
tion during a lifetime. Dr.
Joseph Mendels, medical di-
rector of the Memory Institute,
part of the Philadelphia Med-
ical Institute, said, "I'm im-
pressed at how much we do
remember." The Philadelphia
Institute is an independent or-
ganization primarily involved
in testing new drugs.
While our memory banks
grow each year, the proportion
of it we are able to access easi-
ly stays the same. Slower recall
is a normal phenomenon of ag-
ing, says Dr. McKhann of Johns

Hopkins. Perhaps you can't re-
member someone's name when
you see him, but it may come
back to you that night after
your brain has more time to
scan, he explains.
However, Dr. McKhann
doesn't believe that memory
loss is a given as we age. "Many
older people function at a high
level. At age 50, there may be
subtle changes in the brain, but
most people compensate effec-
tively," he said.

Other Causes

Dr. Crook of Memory As-
sessment Clinics makes a dis-
tinction between "memory" and
"remembering." Memory refers
to the intake of new informa-
tion to the brain. Remembering
is the mental process of re-
trieving that data. Someone
may have extensive knowledge
stored in memory, for instance,
but have great difficulty calling
it up. On the flip side are those
who don't remember because
they weren't concentrating
when the information was pre-
Although we are dazzled by
those with total recall, there is
no link between memory and
intelligence. Take the case of
the brilliant professor who can't
remember his appointments.

MEMORY page 14








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