How does UCLA’s memory recovery program work?

a senior woman hiking by a lake with mountains in the background.

Researchers continue to make new discoveries in the world of cognitive function, leading to new and advanced care options for people with Alzheimer’s. In October 2010, news came out of an intriguing study, conducted in collaboration by the University of California, Los Angeles, neurology department and Buck Institute for Research on Aging, that revealed an effective treatment regimen for reversing memory loss linked to Alzheimer’s. Published in the journal Aging, the study tested the program on 10 patients with this form of dementia and found that in nine cases it lead to significant improvement of memory function in as little as three months. The news has been taking the headlines by storm, but some are still confused about just how the program works, as it is very complex and unlike any other used to treat cognitive decline.

The basics of the program

The program developed by researchers at UCLA was designed to support the metabolic enhancement for neurodegeneration, or MEND. Some may find it difficult to easily summarize, as the program is specially tailored around each patient’s specific needs and levels of cognitive and physical function. But in essence, it is based on the concept that small but important changes in diet, physical activity and other health aspects can help improve the synaptoclastic-synaptoblastic imbalance linked to Alzheimer’s.

More details

To develop each participant’s program, the researchers took about three dozen factors into consideration, from the person’s natural insulin levels to his or her gastrointestinal health. They also took into account the many health conditions tied to Alzheimer’s and targeted those areas for intervention. These include high levels of the amyloid-beta amino acid, lipid metabolism factors, neurotransmitters and prion proteins. Then, the researchers creates a list of exercise and diet changes that the patient should follow strictly, such as reducing stress through meditation, taking vitamin D supplements and fasting for several hours before bedtime.

The Findings

The study discusses in detail the program designed for patient No. 1, a 67-year-old woman who was experiencing progressive memory loss for two years. In this situation, the program was developed to meet dozens of attainable goals, from balancing the progesterone hormone to optimizing sleep to increasing pantothenic acid levels. The patient’s new daily regimen included taking on 30 to 60 minutes of exercise per day for four to six days per week, and she altered her eating habits to reduce carbohydrates, among other changes. Within three months, the patient reported that all of her Alzheimer’s symptoms has been eased, and she was now able to remember phone numbers, navigate without confusion and retain new information.

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