Study Suggests Emotions Last After Memory Fades

A famous quote from Maya Angelou states, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Study Suggests Emotions Last After Memory Fades

A new study gives evidence to her claim by showing that people who have Alzheimer’s disease may experience emotions long after a memory has faded. Learn more about this study.

Elevated Emotions Even Without Memory Recall

It’s no surprise that people with Alzheimer’s have trouble recalling memories. It is, after all, the hallmark symptom of the disease. However, a new study has found that events can have a longer term and profound effect on how they feel, even if they do not remember the particular event.

In the study, researchers from the University of Iowa asked 17 adults with probable Alzheimer’s and 17 without the disease to watch film clips that were intended to make them feel sad or happy. They collected real-time emotion ratings at three different points and also gave a memory test after each point. Not surprisingly, the participants with Alzheimer’s had trouble recalling the film clip. Of the participants with Alzheimer’s, four could not remember any single fact about the film and one could not remember seeing a film.

However, all participants reported elevated emotions from the film lasting for more than 30 minutes, long after the memory of the film clip faded. 

Long Lasting Emotional Effects and Caregiving

The study’s authors hope that their findings will impact the actions of caregivers and improve the quality of life for people living with Alzheimer’s.

Lead author Edmarie Guzman-Velez says:

“This confirms that the emotional life of an Alzheimer’s patient is alive and well.”

Guzman-Velez continues, “Our findings should empower caregivers by showing them that their actions toward patients really do matter. Frequent visits and social interactions, exercise, music, dance, jokes, and serving patients their favorite foods are all simple things that can have a lasting emotional impact on a patient’s quality of life and subjective well-being.”

Have you seen long lasting emotions in a loved one with Alzheimer’s after the memory causing the feelings have faded? Will this change how you interact with your loved one with Alzheimer’s? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Please leave your thoughts and comments

  • Eyrline Morgan

    Reading stories about the family helps people with Alzheimers to momentarily remember something about the past.

  • Diane Engster, JD

    I have felt very strongly since my mom developed dementia that this is true and it has guided all of my caregiving efforts. Keeping the environment and interactive positive is very important and her hired caregivers and I also do my best to keep her in touch with her positive memories and personal strengths and interests every day.

  • Joni

    I cared for my Grandmother for 3 years until my parents chose to hire someone because they felt it was too much on me. I now see her only once a week. I hear from others that she has gotten so much worse in the last 2 months since I’ve been there regularly and that she doesn’t recognize them, she is now falling, getting physically weak and nothing matters because she doesn’t remember anything. However, when I see her, she always looks at me with so much love and wants my attention. She is very emotional aware and has the same wish of dignity now as she ever has. She sometimes fights them to walk, shower, etc but never once fought me even though she would say she didn’t need a shower. It was very difficult to distance myself because I love her dearly and see how vulnerable she is now.

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