Memory and Alzheimer's Disease


  • Matteo Borri INDIRE Istituto Nazionale Documentazione Innovazione Ricerca Educativa, Firenze Italy



Alzheimer's disesase, History of memory, History of science and medicine, Emil Kraepelin, DSM


Memory (including its disorders) has always been an extensively discussed topic in psychiatry. Although the association between memory and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is now taken for granted, it has been less explicitly noted in the history of this disease. Alois Alzheimer’s first observations of symptoms in a 51-year-old patient mentioned memory disorders, but without explaining their role, and the same can be said of many studies on the subject since then. Only since the 1990s have studies on the pathologies of memory and its functioning been analyzed and taken into greater depth in a vast array of fields ranging from psychiatry to psychology, and from neurology to neuroscience.  Memory has thus become one of the correlatives of AD, the particular form of dementia which is among the most common pathologies related to brain aging today. This paper shows how different research fields have integrated their knowledge to define the role of memory in detecting AD as well as to understand the function of memory in brains affected by dementia. The author’s historiographical approach inserts the micro-history of Alzheimer's research into the macro-history of psychiatric classification as proposed by Emil Kraepelin, following the relationship between dementia and memory up to the current scenario as it has evolved in the various editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - DSM