It has never been clear what exactly happens to an Alzheimer's patient's memories, but scientists might be close to a discovery.
One of the enduring mysteries surrounding Alzheimer's Disease, is what happens to a person's memories when they suffer from the disease. For a long time, the prevailing view was that the disease erased the memories completely.
However, there is now reason to believe that the memories are still present.
The patient just cannot recall them for some reason, according to a new study conducted on mice as reported by the Washington Post in "Scientists reawaken memory in mice that had a condition resembling Alzheimer's."
The scientists genetically engineered mice, so they would have a condition similar to Alzheimer's. They then introduced a lemon to the mice and gave the mice a small electric shock, so the mice would associate the scent of lemons with being shocked.
When the scientists later gave the mice lemons, the mice did not appear to remember the shock, until the scientists used a laser to stimulate the neuron in the brains of the mice that were associated with the original memory.
When they gave the mice lemons again, the mice did seem to remember the shock and act in anticipation of it.
This suggests that the memories of Alzheimer's patients are not erased, but the patients just are not able to access the memories.
That could one day help researchers develop a cure for the disease that might allow people to access their memories again.
Reference: Washington Post (July 29, 2017) "Scientists reawaken memory in mice that had a condition resembling Alzheimer's."