The newsletter of the Memory Disorders Project at Rutgers University

Just in case you harbored any lingering doubts that too much cholesterol is bad for you, along comes new research suggesting a link between cholesterol and Alzheimer’s disease. Some encouraging new studies suggest that statins, drugs that help lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol, may also help slow mental decline in Alzheimer’s patients.  It’s not yet clear exactly how much benefit these drugs provide, or whether they work best alone or in combination with traditional Alzheimer’s drugs, but understanding this link may be an important part of conquering Alzheimer’s disease.

So… does this mean that the general public should rush to take statins as protection against mental decline?  Not so fast.  The existing studies have considered patients who already had Alzheimer’s; there’s no data yet on whether statins prevent future cognitive decline in people with high cholesterol, and no reason to believe that otherwise healthy people – those with low cholesterol levels – should start taking cholesterol drugs at all. Right now, the best advice is that you’ll maximize your chances to avoid both heart disease and Alzheimer’s by working to keep your LDL cholesterol levels down.

Without turning to drugs, there are other ways to boost brain power.  In this issue, we profile a man who has trained himself to accomplish astounding feats of memory magic, like memorizing decks of cards or pages of random numbers.  His performance is truly astonishing, and well beyond what most of us mere mortals will ever achieve.  But you may find it comforting to learn that such “superpowered” memories are made, not born. In principle, most ordinary people could master the tricks and techniques needed to be a memory magician, or even just to improve our ability to remember random information like names and dates.

And finally, turning from the magical to the mundane, our inside feature deals with dêja vu, that occasional funny feeling that you’ve lived through this exact moment before.  As our story explains, dêja vu is nothing more than a minor malfunction of memory, more of a curiosity than a cause for alarm.  But understanding dêja vu is helping to give scientists a better understanding of how normal memory works – and why such minor memory malfunctions are a small price to pay for the amazing powers of the human brain.


Catherine E. Myers, Ph.D.

Editor-In-Chief, Memory Loss and the Brain