Amnesia And Its Causes Amnesia, the partial or complete loss of memory, most commonly is temporary and for only a short span of experience. There are both organic and psychological causes for amnesia. Some organic causes include inflammation of the brain, head injury, or stroke. This type of memory loss occurs suddenly and can last a long time. The person may be able to recall events in the distant past but not yesterday or today. If the amnesia is caused by alcohol abuse, it is a progressive disorder, and there are usually neurological problems like uncoordinated movements and loss of feeling in the fingers and toes. Once these problems occur, it may be too late to stop drinking.
In contrast, psychologically based amnesia is almost always temporary. This type of memory loss may be triggered by a traumatic event with which the mind can not deal. Usually, the memory slowly or suddenly comes back a few days later, though not all of the trauma may be recalled. Only rarely does a person lose the memory of larger portions of their life The brain stores different types of information in different places. Short-term memory involves recalling details that have been catalogued seconds or minutes before.
Examples include reciting a phone number, recognizing a new face, or repeating a list of three objects seen 2 or 3 minutes earlier. For this to happen, distinct areas deep in the brain need to function properly. For short-term memory to convert to long-term memory, other permanent changes to brain cells have to take place. This is similar to creating a permanent file or recording. Other parts of the brain perform this filing function. Occasional memory lapses or forgetfulness are common.
These may be associated with depression, stress, lack of sleep, and normal aging. Memory loss only becomes a problem when it is severe and interferes with daily living. Amnesia is a severe form of memory loss. It may be a partial or complete lack of recall. Depending on the cause of amnesia, the memory loss may arise suddenly or slowly.
It also can be temporary or permanent. Many people with progressive memory loss may not be aware of their worsening forgetfulness. Family members or friends may be more able to judge whether memory lapses are getting worse. Depending on whether the memory loss is of short- or long-term memory, the individual or family may notice certain events, such as: Inability to recognize family members forgetting one’s phone number or home address forgetting how to return home from a familiar location forgetting to eat, bathe, or maintain one’s hygiene forgetting friends’ or family members’ names Common medical causes of memory loss include: normal aging Alzheimer’s Disease depression head trauma hysteria seizures chronic alcohol abuse drugs such as anesthetics, barbiturates, and hallucinogens electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) temporal lobe surgery for conditions such as a brain tumor lack of oxygen to the brain stroke Huntington’s disease Atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries Pick’s disease Lewy body disease normal pressure hydrocephalus chronic subdural hematoma , or bleeding on the brain tumor Wilson’s disease neurosyphilis , or late-stage syphilis Mild memory loss comes normally with aging. Keeping the brain active may help to preserve brain cells.
Reading, singing, doing puzzles, conversing, exercising, and eating a balanced diet stimulate blood flow and activity in the brain. Severe and worsening memory loss may develop into dementia. One form of this condition is dementia associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Because there is no known cause for this disease, there is also no known prevention. Hormone replacement therapy may help postmenopausal women.
Recent research indicates these drugs may delay or prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s. Dementia is also related to strokes. High blood pressure and vascular disease may cause strokes. Preventing or treating high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and alcohol abuse are keyways to decrease the risk of dementia. A person does not need to see a healthcare professional about simple memory loss that happens only once in a while. If memory loss is severe and progressive, Alzheimer’s disease must be considered.
Dementia can be diagnosed only if a doctor is made aware of the problem. A person’s family doctor or internal medicine physician can often make the diagnosis. In other cases, it may take a neurologist trained in specific testing procedures to determine the problem. The main types of amnesia are: Anterograde amnesia: People who find it hard to remember ongoing events after suffering damage to the head. They do not tend to forget their childhood or who they are, but have trouble remembering day-to-day events.
Retrograde amnesia: People who find it hard to retrieve memories prior to an incident in which they suffer damage to the head. Sometimes people never remember the seconds leading up to the incident. Korsakoff’s psychosis: Memory loss caused by alcohol abuse. The person’s short-term memory may be normal, but they will have severe problems recalling a simple story, lists of unrelated words, faces and complex patterns. This tends to be a progressive disorder and is usually accompanied by neurological problems, such as uncoordinated movements and loss of feeling in the fingers and toes.
If these symptoms occur, it may be too late to stop drinking. Traumatic amnesia: This follows brain damage caused by a severe non-penetrative blow to the head, such as in a road accident. It can lead to anything from a loss of consciousness for a few seconds to coma. Infantile/childhood amnesia: This refers to a person’s inability to recall events from early childhood. There are many theories on this, for example, Freud put it down to sexual repression. Others say it could be linked to language development or the fact that some areas of the brain linked to memory are not fully mature.
Hysterical amnesia (also known as fugue amnesia): This covers episodes of amnesia linked to psychological trauma. It is usually temporary and can be triggered by a traumatic event with which the mind finds it difficult to deal. Usually, the memory slowly or suddenly comes back a few days later, although memory of the trauma may remain incomplete. Treatment varies according to the type of amnesia and the suspected cause. Usually the best cure for most is rest and time.
Amnesia, It’s Various Forms, Causes and Cures Daniel Riley Bibliography Baddeley, A. (1983) Your Memory; a User’s Guide London: Penguin Campbell, R. & Conway, M.A. (1995) Broken Memories: Case Studies in Memory Impairement Oxford: Blackwell Rose, S. (1983) The Making of Memory London: Transworld Publishers New World book Encyclopedia Volume A http://cbshealthwatch.medscape.com/medscape/p/gcom munity/ghome.asp http://www.ntu.ac.uk/soc/bscpsych/memory/links.htm Psychology Essays.