What's Happening in the Brain
Orientation is a complex brain process, so it is no surprise that it gets disrupted in Alzheimer's disease . We take our familiar environments for granted, because we recognize them as familiar, but how this happens is complicated. Our brains do not record all the information in our environment - rather they filter important pieces and then rely on existing information for the rest. This existing information can be thought of as a memory . Thus, as you read this, the chances are that you are in a room that is familiar to you. Your brain is scanning your surroundings to detect anything new in that environment. But at any one time, your brain relies on what is actually there only to a small extent. Your brain mainly uses information about what it knows must be there (based on what has always been there) to detect new things in the environment. This constant activity of scanning and checking seems almost effortless in a familiar environment. But think of being in a busy new surrounding - such as an airport, or a hospital - to get some sense of the amount of effort it can take a person with Alzheimer's disease to keep knowing where they are.