LOSS OF IMAGINATION DURING DEMENTIA

Did you know our brain doesn’t know the difference between what it imagines and what it remembers?

Our brain produces and releases various neurochemicals that combine in a soup and send messages to the neurons. Some of these we know, like endorphins and serotonin, are the feel-good ones. Every emotion results from a mix of neurochemical interactions, and our thoughts and memories cause the brain to produce the corresponding neurochemical, which gives rise to how you feel.

A pleasant or painful memory or thought can cause us to feel good or bad. The neurochemical interaction and mixing are automatic, and we can’t control this. However, we can control our thoughts and even how we perceive our memories and change this.

Imagination is also subject to these same neurochemical actions which release hormones. What we imagine affects how we feel. Anxiety is imagining a threat that doesn’t necessarily exist at the moment and causes adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormones, to flood the system. We can imagine walking on a beautiful beach, and the opposite occurs. Many health practitioners and some hospitals use visualization to imagine healing or controlling chronic pain.

Aphantasia, is a condition where a person cannot “consciously” imagine something in their mind’s eye. However, a person’s subconscious is continually using imagining abilities together with memory whether you are aware of it or not.

Imagination is also the building block of creating a future, but it requires memory to operate. We imagine by using the material from what we’ve learned to create a new experience. Whether that was a physical experience or something, read or watched, this information stores in our subconscious. Every day we imagine millions of scenarios even without knowing.

Neuroscience has discovered that the brain sections most involved with triggering memory and imagining are almost in the same area. One interacts with the other.

If I’m going to make breakfast, even though I’ve done it a million times, I have to use both memory and imagination to cook the eggs, toast the bread and fry the bacon. I need to remember the steps of knowing how to do these things and imagine the outcome.

What happens when brain cells get damaged, and the memory of cooking breakfast is gone, or even what eggs, toast, or bacon is? Not only is the person’s ability to make breakfast affected, but it also their ability to use their imagination to see in their mind what breakfast is.

When memory is impaired, so is the ability to imagine. A person with dementia loses memory and imagination and can’t “picture” in their mind. Ask them to go somewhere, and commonly they refuse, even if it’s somewhere they regularly go. Ask them to do something, and they may not picture what you are talking about. Imagining is as essential as remembering; they work together. If you can’t imagine the future, even just making that breakfast, the danger of apathy and depression becomes a typical result.

Understand your loved one not only is losing memory, but they are also losing their ability to imagine.

To read more dementia information like this, go to the free Katya’s Blog section on the website: www.theinfinitemind.org

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