• Question: I read about a old woman who has Alzheimer's disease. She does not remember anyone from her family. She does, however, remember a song that her husband wrote for her. What is happening in her brain that allows her to remember a song but not her family or her friends?

    Asked by samsam to Georgia on 21 Jun 2011.
    • Photo: Georgia Campbell

      Georgia Campbell answered on 21 Jun 2011:

      Hi Sam,

      when Alzheimers starts making us lose memories, its because the brain cells that link us to these memories start to get sick and die. The cells that we lose will be lost randomly – there’s not necessarily any pattern to which ones get sick first. This means that we can forget the most obvious things, and maybe remember some suprising things.

      One of my favourite authors (Terry Pratchett) has Alzhiemers, and he writes a lot about how he’s been experiencing the disease – he said that in the early early stages he could still remember all of his family and friends and write very cleverly, but he’d forget things like how to fasten his clothes or what a kettle was for, even though these should be much easier to remember. It effects everyone very differently because of this random pattern of cell loss, and its really sad (for the person and their close ones) when patients start to forget who people are – it’s because of the impact that this has on so many people that I think Alzheimers is one of the mostimportant things we have to work on finding a cure for.