Alzheimer’s Challenges Notions Of Memory And Identity

NPR:

Last week, comedian, actor and activist Seth Rogen about the importance of research on Alzheimer’s disease, highlighting the emotional and financial burden the disease places on families — like his own — whose loved ones are affected. He noted that Alzheimer’s often begins with an assault on relatively inconsequential memories, such as the location of keys, but eventually .

As Rogen’s testimony suggests, part of what makes Alzheimer’s disease so devastating is the profound personal transformation that it seems to bring about.

Within philosophy, theories of often rely on memory as a basis for identity. According to a view sometimes attributed to Locke, for example, what makes you the same person now as in the past is precisely the continuity in your memories — an aspect of the mind with which Alzheimer’s wreaks havoc. So it’s surprising, then, that a new by Nina Strohminger and Shaun Nichols, published in the journal Cognition, suggests that memory may not be all that special when it comes to the way we think about others’ persistence over time.

This research reveals something important about the perception of identity in the face of decline. But what about the nature of the decline itself? As people with Alzheimer’s disease lose their memories, is their social and moral judgment similarly compromised?

For more than a decade, psychologist Deborah Zaitchik and her colleagues have been studying the patterns of cognitive impairments that characterize Alzheimer’s disease.

Read the whole story: NPR

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