Findings recently published in the journal Science reveal new research from the University of Cambridge has shown that memory problems like those seen in dementia may happen because the brain forms incomplete memories that are more easily confused.
Scientists found that the ability of the brain to maintain complete, detailed memories is disrupted.
The scientists are hopeful that their research could lead to new treatments that should reduce the confusion between memories,
"This study suggests that a major component of memory problems may actually be confusion between memories, rather than loss of memories per se,” said Dr Lisa Saksida.
"This is consistent with reports of memory distortions in dementia - for example, patients may not switch off the cooker, or may fail to take their medication, not because they have forgotten that they should do these things, but because they think they have already done so," she added.
As part of the research, animals were shown an object and then, after an hour, were given a memory test in which they were either shown the same object again, or a new object.
Normal animals spent more time exploring the new object, indicating that they remembered the old object. Amnesic animals, performed poorly on the memory task, because they spent the same amount of time exploring the old and the new object.
Interestingly, some amnesic animals looked at the new object less than the normal animals did, showing false memory for the new object.
Saksida continued, "One thing that we found very surprising about our results was the extent of the memory recovery, achieved simply by reducing the incoming information prior to the memory test.