The British Journal of Psychiatry
Amnestic people with Alzheimer's disease who remembered the Kobe earthquake.
M Ikeda, E Mori, N Hirono, T Imamura, T Shimomura, Y Ikejiri, H Yamashita


BACKGROUND Emotional memory is a special category of memory for events arousing strong emotions. To investigate the effects of emotional involvement on memory retention in individuals with Alzheimer's disease we studied peoples' memories of distressing experiences during a devastating earthquake.

METHODS Fifty-one subjects with probable Alzheimer's disease who experienced the Kobe earthquake at home in the greater Kobe area were studied. Memories of the earthquake were assessed 6 and 10 weeks after the disaster in semi-structured interviews, and were compared with memories of a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examination given after the earthquake.

RESULTS Forty-four (86.3%) of the subjects remembered the earthquake and 16 (31.4%) of subjects remembered the MRI experience. Factual content of the earthquake was lost in most of the subjects.

CONCLUSIONS Fear reinforces memory retention of an episode in subjects with Alzheimer's disease but does not enhance retention of its context, despite repeated exposure to the information.