In the early stages of Alzheimer's disease patients are often unable to remember recent experiences, however scientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in US have shown that those memories are still stored in the brain - they just cannot be easily accessed.

Mice in the early stages of Alzheimer's can form new memories just as well as normal mice but cannot recall them a few days later, researchers said.

Scientists were able to artificially stimulate those memories using a technique known as optogenetics, suggesting that those memories can still be retrieved with a little help.

Although optogenetics cannot currently be used in humans, the findings raise the possibility of developing future treatments that might reverse some of the memory loss seen in early-stage Alzheimer's, researchers said.

Researchers studied two different strains of mice genetically engineered to develop Alzheimer's symptoms, plus a group of healthy mice.

All of these mice, when exposed to a chamber where they received a foot shock, showed fear when placed in the same chamber an hour later.

However, when placed in the chamber again several days later, only the normal mice still showed fear. The Alzheimer's mice did not appear to remember the foot shock.

The researchers were also able to induce a longer-term reactivation of the 'lost' memories by stimulating new connections between the entorhinal cortex and the hippocampus.

The findings were published in the journal Nature.

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