Why Do We Forget
Forgetting in STM is a vexing problem: What accounts for failures to retrieve something encoded just seconds ago? There are two major explanations for forgetting, often placed in opposition: time-based decay and similarity-based interference. Below, we describe some of the major findings in the literature related to each of these explanations, and we suggest that they may ultimately result from the same underlying principles.
Diet And Lifestyle Changes
Making positive changes to lifestyle and diet have been shown to help improve memory, particularly short-term memory, and can help to lower your risk of developing memory loss in the future. Changes include:
- Being physically active to increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and protein, as well as less saturated fat, sugar, and salt
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Managing and treating chronic health conditions like diabetes and hypertension successfully
- Creating a schedule or to-do-list to help you manage daily activities better
Forgetfulness: Causes Symptoms And Treatments
Common Memory Problems
You walk into a room, and stand there, suddenly feeling empty, your mind blank. Why did you come here? Initially, you feel a bit irritated with yourself for this forgetfulness and walk back to where you came from. Very often, when you jog your memory by retracing what you were doing or thinking, you do remember! This short term memory loss is one of the common types of memory loss problems.
Types of Memory Problems
What are the other reasons for memory loss? When you read something, and cannot remember what you read a few minutes or sometime later, when someone tells you something important, and you end up not doing it at all. When they ask you why?, your only response is that they never told you anything like that at all. This may sound alarming but happens often. This could be absent-mindedness or because you did not pay attention when they were talking with you.
But when this starts happening too often, you have cause to worry a bit about your forgetfulness and wonder what is the cause? . Is it just short term memory loss or a serious memory loss disease, like Dementia or Alzheimers? The alarm bells ring about your forgetfulness. Sometimes you cant remember a persons name, its on the tip of your tongue, but you cannot articulate it. This is Blocking, where a different thought intrudes on the one you are trying to retrieve. You tend to stress more if you are older, but forgetfulness is not just a sign of advancing age.
Lack of Sleep
Also Check: What Part Of The Brain Controls Vomiting
What Happens At Your Appointment
The GP will ask you some questions to try to find the cause of your memory problems.
It might be useful to bring someone else with you who can help describe the problems you’re having.
The GP may refer you to a memory specialist for an in-depth assessment. Further tests, such as scans, may also sometimes be needed.
Any treatment that’s recommended will depend on the cause of your memory problems.
What Can I Expect If I Have Amnesia
Amnesia can last hours, days, months or even longer. Your individual outcome is best predicted by your healthcare provider who has examined you and determined the cause and the severity of your amnesia. People with amnesia generally have to rely on family and friends to fill in the gaps in their memory and function in daily life.
Recommended Reading: Are You Left Brained Or Right Brained
Causes Of Memory Loss
Here are some of the more common things that can cause memory loss:
Medications. A number of prescription and over-the-counter medications can interfere with or cause loss of memory. Possible culprits include: antidepressants, antihistamines, anti-anxiety medications, muscle relaxants, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and pain medications given after surgery.
Smoking harms memory by reducing the amount of oxygen that gets to the brain. Studies have shown that people who smoke find it more difficult to put faces with names than do nonsmokers. Illegal drugs can change chemicals in the brain that can make it hard to recall memories.
Sleep deprivation. Both quantity and quality of sleep are important to memory. Getting too little sleep or waking frequently in the night can lead to fatigue, which interferes with the ability to consolidate and retrieve information.
Depression and stress. Being depressed can make it difficult to pay attention and focus, which can affect memory. Stress and anxiety can also get in the way of concentration. When you are tense and your mind is overstimulated or distracted, your ability to remember can suffer. Stress caused by an emotional trauma can also lead to memory loss.
Home Remedies For Short
You might have heard that certain vitamin supplements can help improve your short-term memory. However, even though these supplements are safe, theres conflicting research on whether they help memory loss.
In some cases, they can be helpful. For example, a B-12 supplement may help if your short-term memory loss is caused by a B-12 deficiency.
Otherwise, theres mixed evidence for how well other supplements work for memory loss. For example, ginkgo biloba is a popular supplement for memory and concentration issues. But a review of 36 studies found that while the supplement is safe, its effects on dementia or other cognitive impairments is inconsistent and unreliable.
Fish oil is another supplement you may have heard helps memory. A Cochrane review found that fish oil doesnt have any significant cognitive benefits for healthy older adults. However, they suggested that more research should be done on this topic.
Curcumin, which is extracted from turmeric, has been said to help improve cognitive function, including memory.
A review of curcumins effect on people with Alzheimers disease found that theres some evidence that curcumin positively affects some of the pathways affected by Alzheimers disease. However, the researchers found that more research is needed to say definitively if curcumin can help memory problems.
Even if supplements arent effective in treating short-term memory loss, there are some lifestyle modifications you can try, including:
You May Like: What Happens When Leukemia Spreads To The Brain
Use Post Notes And Signs Everywhere In The House
For some seniors with memory problems, posting signs and notes up are very helpful. Its important to know that if memory loss continues to get worse, they may be able to READ what they see but they will lose the ability to COMPREHEND and/or REMEMBER what they just read. This is very important especially when it comes to taking medication.
In the rehab hospitals I worked in, many doctors would often tell me the patient was good to go home and live independently because the doctor asked them to read their prescription instructions and they were able to do so. But I would often counterpoint by asking the patient to again read the instructions on the pill bottle and then tell me what those instructions meant. Gotta say, that 9/10 times they werent able to do so because although they could read the words they were not able to comprehend them and/or recall what they had just read.
But if notes DO work for you or your senior loved one, then the types of notes you could post up would be things like
- Turn off the stove.
- Keys are in the laundry room.
- Phone numbers .
- Take your medicine at 10:00 am.
Alexa And Google Home To Remind Them Of Tasks
Many have seen this very funny SNL skit on seniors attempting to use Alexa. Although they are exaggerating the issues the truth is that learning to use technology is not an easy task for the elderly. Who knows what WE will be having problems with as we get older!
But, for safety matters, technology can really be a very useful tool.
You can use Alexa and Google Home to give you verbal reminders on a daily basis. This works well for medications, appointments and other daily tasks. Set up Reminders on these types of tools and both you and your senior loved ones will be told when to do what!
Recommended Reading: What Does The Left Brain Control
Should I Correct Someone With Memory Loss
Whether or not to correct someone with memory problems depends on the severity of the problem.
- If they have been diagnosed with Dementia or Alzheimers, then its likely not a good idea to try to correct them.
- If its very slight memory loss , then its likely the right thing to do.
When I interned as an Occupational Therapist, I was living in South Florida. The majority of patients in hospitals and rehab centers were elderly and many of them had mild to severe memory problems.
The thinking back then was that if the patient said it was 1953 we were supposed to correct them. If they said that their mother was coming to pick them up soon, we were supposed to remind them that their mother had passed away many years ago.
As you can probably imagine this was not a good approach. My poor patients became frightened, anxious and even more confused. Thankfully, that only lasted my first year as an OT then the approach evolved to what it is today. Which is that if you are aware of memory problems in your elderly loved one and they make a statement that isnt true or they forget an event just go along with it, let it slide and dont make an issue of it.
This technique is called Therapeutic Fibbing and its very effective.
At the end of the day, it serves no purpose to continuously try to correct someone with any form of slight or severe dementia. They arent purposely forgetting! Their brain function just isnt what it used to be. It is a form of brain injury.
Symptoms Of Mild Cognitive Impairment
Mild cognitive impairment is an intermediate stage between normal age-related cognitive changes and the more serious symptoms that indicate dementia.
MCI can involve problems with memory, language, thinking, and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes, but the line between MCI and normal memory problems is not always a clear one. The difference is often one of degrees. For example, its normal as you age to have some problems remembering the names of people. However, its not normal to forget the names of your close family and friends and then still be unable to recall them after a period of time.
If you have mild cognitive impairment, you and your family or close friends will likely be aware of the decline in your memory or mental function. But, unlike people with full-blown dementia, you are still able to function in your daily life without relying on others.
While many people with MCI eventually develop Alzheimers disease or another type of dementia, that doesnt mean its inevitable. Some people with MCI plateau at a relatively mild stage of decline while others even return to normal. The course is difficult to predict, but in general, the greater the degree of memory impairment, the greater your risk of developing dementia some time in the future.
Recommended Reading: What Happens If You Have A Brain Bleed
How Is Amnesia Treated
There is no pill that can cure amnesia. However, amnesia can improve as the brain heals in some conditions. When memory loss is persistent, there are skills you can learn to compensate.
Cognitive rehabilitation involves teaching new skills to patients with anterograde amnesia. These might include organizational strategies or compensatory technology . Success varies. Occupational therapists often perform cognitive rehabilitation. Occupational therapists also help your family and friends cope with their role as caregivers.
How Can You Measure And Assess Short
Short-term memory plays a large role in the majority of daily activities. Our ability to appropriately interact with our environment and the people that surround us depends directly on short-term memory. This is one of the reasons why evaluating your short-term memory and knowing your cognitive level can be helpful in a variety of different areas: Academic– will help you understand if a child has trouble learning to read or understanding long or complex sentences. Medical– helps understand how to talk to patients, if you need to give basic instructions, if they will have trouble remembering a medication/diagnosis. Professional– short-term memory can serve as an indicator of how easily a worker will internalize and work with complex orders.
CogniFit’s tests to assess short-term memory were inspired by the Direct and Indirect Digits Test from the WMS , the CPT , TOMM , and TOL tests. Aside from short-term memory, these tests also measure spatial perception, processing speed, and working memory.
You May Like: What Does Marijuana Do To Your Brain
Other Lifestyle Factors That Enhance Short
Regular physical exercise is a key lifestyle habit for a good memory.
Cardiovascular exercise improves short-term memory and prevents deterioration of the hippocampus, the brains primary memory center.
You dont have to exercise for a long time, or strenuously, to reap these benefits.
It appears that 20 minutes of low-intensity exercise is adequate.
Walking in nature can improve short-term memory.
If you cant walk outside, even looking at an image of a natural scene can help you recover from mental fatigue.
Just one 20-minute session of yoga has a significant, immediate impact on working memory and concentration.
Stop multitasking it takes a surprising toll on cognitive performance.
Mental toggling back and forth between tasks disrupts short-term memory.
So stick with doing one thing at a time.
If you have trouble with this, try meditation.
Meditation trains your brain to focus on the present.
It can help your memory get better fast even if you are a beginner.
Study participants who were new to meditation experienced improvements in working memory, executive functioning, energy, and mood after just four mindfulness meditation sessions.
Minimize chronic stress which changes your brains function and structure down to the level of your DNA.
It also disrupts your brains short-term memory recall.
So take active measures to get your stress under control.
How Sugar Accelerates Short
Your brain needs a steady supply of glucose, its main fuel.
The key word here is steady.
But the simple carbs found in the types of sugar and flour commonly used in processed foods can push blood glucose levels into an unhealthy range.
This adversely affects short-term memory.
Sugar also increases free radical damage and promotes inflammation of the brain.
It can even change your brainwave patterns, making it hard to think clearly.
Consuming too many simple carbohydrates can even cause insulin resistance in the brain.
This type of insulin resistance has been linked to Alzheimers disease.
Read Also: What Part Of The Brain Forms New Memories
Drugs That Cause Short
Sometimes its the drug treatment for a health condition, not the condition itself, that causes memory loss.
There are many prescription drugs that list short-term memory loss as a side effect.
A group of drugs called anticholinergics can trigger short-term memory loss by blocking the action of acetylcholine, the main neurotransmitter associated with learning and memory.
Acetylcholine is also essential for turning short-term memories into long-term ones.
The level of acetylcholine naturally declines with age which puts older adults at greater risk for memory loss induced by their medications.
Two of the worst kinds of medications for short-term memory loss are anti-anxiety drugs and narcotic painkillers .
And its not only prescription drugs that can affect your memory.
Some over-the-counter remedies such as the antihistamine Benadryl are anticholinergic and have been linked to dementia.
And as you might expect, recreational substances ranging from alcohol, nicotine, and marijuana to heroin and cocaine take a toll on short-term memory.
Working Memory: Similar To Short
You may have come across the term working memory.
It is often used interchangeably with short-term memory.
Like short-term memory, working memory temporarily stores information.
But it also organizes and manipulates it.
The term short-term memory came first.
Working memory was coined in the 1960s and was influenced by the advent of the computer and its similarity to the working of the brain.
Most psychologists today believe the theory of working memory, which encompasses active manipulation of information, to be more accurate than the short-term memory theory.
However, understanding that they are basically the same thing is sufficient for the layperson.
The steps you would take to boost working memory would be the same as those youd take to improve short-term memory.
Don’t Miss: How To Draw A Brain
Normal Forgetfulness Vs Dementia
For most people, occasional lapses in short-term memory are a normal part of the aging process, not a warning sign of serious mental deterioration or the onset of Alzheimers or another dementia.
The following types of memory lapses are normal among older adults and generally are not considered warning signs of dementia:
- Occasionally forgetting where you left things you use regularly, such as glasses or keys.
- Forgetting names of acquaintances or blocking one memory with a similar one, such as calling a grandson by your sons name.
- Occasionally forgetting an appointment or walking into a room and forgetting why you entered.
- Becoming easily distracted or having trouble remembering what youve just read, or the details of a conversation.
- Not quite being able to retrieve information you have on the tip of your tongue.
Are There Different Types Of Amnesia
There are many different names for amnesia and amnesia syndromes. Here are a few common terms you may encounter:
- Retrograde Amnesia: Describes amnesia where you cant recall memories that were formed before the event that caused the amnesia. It usually affects recently stored past memories, not memories from years ago.
- Anterograde Amnesia: Describes amnesia where you cant form new memories after the event that caused the amnesia. Anterograde amnesia is far more common than retrograde.
- Post-traumatic Amnesia: This is amnesia that occurs immediately after a significant head injury. It may involve retrograde amnesia, anterograde amnesia, or both.
- Transient Global Amnesia: A temporary syndrome where you experience both retrograde and anterograde amnesia. Memory loss is sudden and only lasts up to 24 hours.
- Infantile Amnesia: This is the term used to describe the fact that people cant recall memories of events from early childhood. Few people have memories from before the ages of three to five because the brain areas that support memory are still developing.
- Dissociative Amnesia/Psychogenic Amnesia: A mental health disorder where you experience amnesia after a significant trauma. You block out both personal information and the traumatic incident from your memory.
Don’t Miss: How To Improve Brain Function With Supplements