US Med Voice

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Vol. 3, No. 3 | March 2011

 

 

 

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Golf is Unforgettable?
Golf Capability Remains After Alzheimers

US MED Gives BackGolf holds such power over a player's mind that it may never be forgotten, even for those who have Alzheimer's disease and can no longer care for themselves.

At the Silverado Senior Living facility in Belmont, Calif., an 87-year-old man wanted nothing but to stay in his room and not communicate at all. Operators of the home decided to hold a "golf outing" and insisted that he go.

Hours later, this man was measuring the break on a 12-foot putt and knocking his ball into the hole. At the driving range, he practiced chipping with a six iron, using an easy, free swing duffers half his age would envy.

Caregivers have found that as patients run through a series of golf drills they learned early in life, a startling transformation occurs, though it may not last very long. The patient seems like a normal person again.

Neurologists at the University of California at Irvine say motor memory is the mind aspect that is the last to go. Bodies of former golfers remember how to swing a golf club. It is imprinted on their minds.

The things we learn first in life are the last to be lost with Alzheimer's, which is why people who learned to play golf when they were young can still swing the club pretty well after most other capabilities are gone.

What a patient had for breakfast and the present appearance of a spouse and children are stored in the cerebral cortex, which is the first part of the brain to be affected by the disease.

Skills like swinging a golf club or playing a musical instrument are stored in the cerebellum and other areas of the brain. These are some of the last memories Alzheimer's patients lose.

Reported in The Wall Street Journal, one woman patient taken to the outing said she didn't want to go, had never played golf, couldn't do it and hardly remembered anything. After a half hour with a golf club, she recalled stories about growing up, how she took lessons from a pro, and told about the weekly rounds she played with the ladies. She said she could always hit a long ball.

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