Lost and Found: Rescuing Impaired Memory

Kei Igarashi with his grandmother

Kei Igarashi with his grandmother

"Alzheimer's disease is a disease that we need to cure."
—Kei Igarashi, PhD

Remembering where you put your car keys and how to drive home—abilities many of us take for granted—rely on a type of memory called spatial memory. Without spatial memory, these tasks are no longer simple or second nature. This happens to the 60 percent of people with Alzheimer's who lose spatial memory and show wandering behavior.

We know there are brain cells responsible for spatial memory, called "place cells" and "grid cells." We don't know what happens to these cells in people with Alzheimer's. Are they lost, and if so, can we reactivate them? Thanks to support from Alzheimer's Disease Research, Kei Igarashi, PhD, is using cutting-edge techniques to find out.

"These studies are expected to help us develop effective procedures for brain stimulation as a powerful tool to preserve (or improve) memory function, to slow the rate of memory decline in Alzheimer's patients," says Dr. Igarashi, an assistant professor at University of California, Irvine, who leads a research group on Alzheimer's disease and mechanisms of memory.

For Dr. Igarashi, finding a cure for Alzheimer's is personal. When he was just beginning his PhD research, his grandmother, Yuriko, started to show symptoms. She was diagnosed the next year, at 79. She declined over the next 14 years, passing at 93.

"Alzheimer's disease completely killed her personality, long before she passed away," Dr. Igarashi says. "I could not do anything for her, even though I am a memory researcher. This frustration keeps driving me to fight Alzheimer's disease."

Support investigators like Dr. Igarashi as they work to prevent, treat, and cure this disease with your future gift to Alzheimer's Disease Research. Contact Charles Thomas at 301-556-9397 or cthomas@brightfocus.org to learn more.