Friday, May 13, 2022

Which Part Of Brain Is Affected During Memory Loss

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What Happens With Memory Problems

When someone suffers from memory loss, what part of the brain is affected?

Some people with brain injury have a hard time remembering past events such as a telephone message or conversation. It can also be hard to remember future events such as an appointment. People might forget things they need to do during the day. While everyone forgets some things sometimes, people with memory problems forget things more often. They may also forget specific types of information. Most times, long-time memories about family and childhood are not affected.

What Can Go Wrong With Memory

As wonderful as memory is, it isn’t always perfect. It’s normal to occasionally forget the name of somebody you just met or where you put your shoes. And of course, everyone has forgotten an answer on a test. Darn! You knew that one, too!

It’s also typical for people to forget more things as they grow older. Your parents or grandparents might joke about having a “senior moment.” That’s when they forget something.

But some memory problems are serious, such as when a person has Alzheimer’s disease. In this disease, deposits build up and nerve cells stop working leading to memory loss.

Strokes, which also affect older people, are another medical problem that can affect someone’s memory. A stroke is when blood doesn’t get to all the parts of the brain, either because there is a blockage in the pathway or because a blood vessel bursts.

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Vascular Contributions To Alzheimers Disease

People with dementia seldom have only Alzheimers-related changes in their brains. Any number of vascular issuesproblems that affect blood vessels, such as beta-amyloid deposits in brain arteries, atherosclerosis , and mini-strokesmay also be at play.

Vascular problems may lead to reduced blood flow and oxygen to the brain, as well as a breakdown of the blood-brain barrier, which usually protects the brain from harmful agents while allowing in glucose and other necessary factors. In a person with Alzheimers, a faulty blood-brain barrier prevents glucose from reaching the brain and prevents the clearing away of toxic beta-amyloid and tau proteins. This results in inflammation, which adds to vascular problems in the brain. Because it appears that Alzheimers is both a cause and consequence of vascular problems in the brain, researchers are seeking interventions to disrupt this complicated and destructive cycle.

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Trauma And Memory Loss

Memory loss is a frustrating and sometimes scary experience, especially if the memory loss is caused by a traumatic event. Research shows that there is a definite relationship between occurrences of emotional, psychological or physical trauma and memory. Some of this memory loss may be a temporary way to help you cope with the trauma, and some of it may be permanent due to a severe brain injury or disturbing psychological trauma. Knowing how trauma can affect your memory can guide you in choosing an appropriate treatment to help you cope with trauma and heal your memory problems.

A Note About Unproven Treatments

How to Improve Memory, Focus, and Mental Acuity Naturally

Some people are tempted by untried or unproven “cures” that claim to make the brain sharper or prevent dementia. Be cautious of pills, supplements, brain training computer games, or other products that promise to improve memory or prevent brain disorders. These might be unsafe, a waste of money, or both. They might even interfere with other medical treatments. Currently there is no drug or treatment that prevents Alzheimer’s or related dementias.

However, there are currently several drugs available by prescription to safely treat the symptoms of early and mid-stage Alzheimer’s. If you have been diagnosed with dementia, your doctor may suggest that you take one of them.

How to protect yourself and others from unproven treatments:

  • Beware if the product claim seems too promising and if it conflicts with what youve heard from your health care provider.
  • Question any product that claims to be a scientific breakthrough. Companies marketing these products often take advantage of people when they are most vulnerable and looking for a miracle cure.
  • Check with your doctor or health care professional before buying any product, including those labeled as dietary supplements, that promises to improve your memory or prevent dementia.
  • Report any products or supplements being advertised as a treatment for Alzheimer’s or other diseases on the U.S. Food and Drug Administrations website.

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Conflict Of Interest Statement

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.


The authors would like to thank Rob Vanderveen for illustrating Figures 24 and Eleanor Duff for her comments on an earlier draft. Support provided by NIDCD grant R01 DC011755.


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Corkin, S. 2002. Whats new with the amnesic patient H.M.? Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 3:153160. doi:10.1038/nrn726

Ribot, T. 1881. Les Maladies de la Memoire. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Corkin, S. 2013. Permanent Present Tense: The Unforgettable Life of the Amnesic Patient, HM. New York: Basic Books.

Milner, B. 1962. Physiologie de lhippocampe, in Physiologie de lhippocampe, ed P. Passouant, 257272. Paris: Centra National de la Recherche Scientifique.

Cohen, N. J., and Squire, L. R. 1980. Preserved learning and retention of a pattern-analyzing skill in amnesia: dissociation of knowing how and knowing that. Science 210:207210. doi:10.1126/science.7414331

Rosenbaum, R. S., Gilboa, A., and Moscovitch, M. 2014. Case studies continue to illuminate the cognitive neuroscience of memory. Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci. 1316:10533. doi:10.1111/nyas.12467

What To Expect At Your Office Visit

The provider will perform a physical exam and ask about the person’s medical history and symptoms. This will usually include asking questions of family members and friends. For this reason, they should come to the appointment.

Medical history questions may include:

  • Type of memory loss, such as short-term or long-term
  • Time pattern, such as how long the memory loss has lasted or whether it comes and goes
  • Things that triggered memory loss, such as head injury or surgery

Tests that may be done include:

  • Blood tests for specific diseases that are suspected

Treatment depends on the cause of memory loss. Your provider can tell you more.

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Alzheimer’s And Dementia: Which Areas Of The Brain Are Affected

The human brain is made of billions of specialized cells designed to process and transmit information. When these cells lose their ability to function properly, vital communication between neurons is impaired or completely interrupted.

Dementia and Alzheimers disease disrupt neurons and cause damage to many areas of the brain, leading to a wide array of progressive symptoms. If you suspect dementia or Alzheimers in a loved one, it is important to find a neurologist to diagnose the cause of these cognitive and behavioral changes.

Before identifying the specific brain changes and the areas of the brain which are affected by Alzheimer’s, its important to define neurology terms to better understand this disease.

Brain Injuries Affect Memory

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At any age, an injury to the head and brain can cause trouble with somebody’s memory. Some people who recover from brain injuries need to learn old things all over again, like how to talk or tie their shoes. That’s why it’s so important to protect your head by wearing your seatbelt in the car and wearing a helmet when you skate, play football, ride your bike, skateboard, or wear roller sneakers.

You may have heard about a memory problem called amnesia . This is when someone can’t remember things that happened recently and sometimes even things that happened long ago. It’s not usually like you see on TV or in the movies. People rarely forget their own names and they usually get better slowly, instead of all at once because something dramatic happens like getting kissed by a dreamy prince or princess!

The most common cause of amnesia is a traumatic brain injury. A TBI is caused by a severe hit to the head. Traumatic brain injuries can happen in a lot of ways and can be severe enough to cause a coma , or a person may just be stunned without even being knocked out .

Car accidents, bike accidents, and falls can cause TBIs. If you’ve ever seen someone take a hit to the head in a National Football League game, you may have seen the player being questioned on the sidelines. The doctor may ask the person some basic questions like what happened, where they are, and what team they’re playing. Not knowing the correct answers could be the first sign of a brain injury.

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Dementia With Lewy Bodies

The brain of a person with dementia with Lewy bodies often shows less overall shrinkage than the brain of someone with Alzheimer’s or FTD. Instead, tiny deposits of protein are seen in the cerebral cortex, limbic system and brain stem.

In DLB, early damage is seen in the visual pathways and – in some studies – also in the frontal lobes. This may explain why problems with vision and attention are common early symptoms of DLB.

Similarly, Lewy bodies in the brain stem may be linked to the problems with movement, as also seen in Parkinson’s disease.

Dementia Connect support line

How Trauma Affects The Brain

A traumatic incident can cause a great deal of stress in both the short term and the long term. That stress response can have an impact on different areas of the brain, such as the hippocampus, amygdala and prefrontal cortex. In fact, those areas of the brain can change in shape and volume, and experience diminished function.

Not coincidentally, these are areas of the brain that are strongly associated with memory function. The prefrontal cortex helps process working memory, the information that we need to remember on an everyday basis. The hippocampus is also a major memory center in the brain. The left hippocampus focuses on memorizing facts and recognition, while the right hippocampus is associated with spatial memory. The hippocampus also gives us a way to learn by comparing past memories with present experiences. And the amygdala processes fear-based memories if you ever burned your hand on a stove once, you remember not to touch the hot surface again because the memory is processed and stored by the amygdala. The amygdala is also believed to help with the formation of long-term memory. Trauma-based memory loss, therefore, can easily occur when the trauma creates stress that negatively affects the brain.

When it comes to trauma and memory loss, there are different types of trauma that can cause temporary or permanent problems.

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Emotional Or Psychological Trauma And Memory Loss

Emotional or psychological trauma can also affect your memory. Memory loss is a natural survival skill and defense mechanism humans develop to protect themselves from psychological damage. Violence, sexual abuse and other emotionally traumatic events can lead to dissociative amnesia, which helps a person cope by allowing them to temporarily forget details of the event. With this type of memory loss, which is also called psychogenic amnesia or functional amnesia, a person will often suppress memories of a traumatic event until they are ready to handle them, which may never occur. This situation-specific memory loss helps block out the traumatic event, but another type of dissociative amnesia, called global amnesia, can cause a person to forget who they are for a brief period of time they can also experience confusion or depression. Dissociative amnesia can range from mild to severe, and it can lead to dysfunction in relationships and the daily activities associated with normal life.

Emotional or psychological trauma can also lead to posttraumatic stress disorder, which can manifest itself in different ways including flashbacks of the event and intrusive, unwanted thoughts about the trauma. Repressed memories and PTSD are also common. Without treatment, these repressed memories may resurface at any time with a trigger event and if they are revisited over and over, the brain continues to experience the trauma anew each time.

Finding The Cause Of Memory Loss

The Difference Between Alzheimers Disease and Dementia

If you find that you are increasingly forgetful or if memory problems interfere with your daily life, schedule an appointment with your doctor to determine the cause and best treatment.

To evaluate memory loss, your doctor will take a medical history, perform a physical exam — including a neurologic exam — and ask questions to test mental ability. Depending on the results, further evaluation may include blood and urine tests, nerve tests, and imaging tests of the brain such as computerized axial tomography scans or magnetic resonance imaging .

You may also be sent for neuropsychological testing, which is a battery of tests that help pinpoint the memory loss.

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What Happens If The Hippocampus Is Small

Alzheimers disease, depression, and stress appear to be linked to a smaller-sized hippocampus.

In Alzheimers, the size of the hippocampus can be used to diagnose the progress of the disease.

In people with depression, the hippocampus can shrink by up to 20 percent , according to some researchers.

Reviews of studies have suggested that the hippocampus in people with severe depression may be an average of 10 percent smaller than in those without depression.

Cushings disease features a number of symptoms that are linked to high levels of cortisol, a hormone produced when people are under stress. One of these symptoms is a reduction in the size of the hippocampus.

A study in monkeys has shown that the size of the hippocampus is 54 percent heritable. However, since the hippocampus continues to produce neurons throughout adult life, the link remains unclear.

It is also unclear whether a small hippocampus is an underlying cause of certain conditions, or whether it is a result.

Causes Of Dementia With Lewy Bodies

Lewy bodies are tiny clumps of a protein called alpha-synuclein that can develop inside brain cells.

These clumps damage the way the cells work and communicate with each other, and the brain cells eventually die.

Dementia with Lewy bodies is closely related to Parkinson’s disease and often has some of the same symptoms, including difficulty with movement and a higher risk of falls.

Read more about dementia with Lewy bodies.

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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.

Reversible Causes Of Memory Loss

Questions on brain fog, concentration and memory loss during menopause

Its important to remember that memory loss doesnt automatically mean that you have dementia. There are many other reasons why you may be experiencing cognitive problems, including stress, depression, and even vitamin deficiencies. Thats why its so important to go to a doctor to get an official diagnosis if youre experiencing problems.

Sometimes, even what looks like significant memory loss can be caused by treatable conditions and reversible external factors, such as:

Depression. Depression can mimic the signs of memory loss, making it hard for you to concentrate, stay organized, remember things, and get stuff done. Depression is a common problem in older adultsespecially if youre less social and active than you used to be or youve recently experienced a number of important losses or major life changes .

Vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 protects neurons and is vital to healthy brain functioning. In fact, a lack of B12 can cause permanent damage to the brain. Older people have a slower nutritional absorption rate, which can make it difficult for you to get the B12 your mind and body need. If you smoke or drink, you may be at particular risk. If you address a vitamin B12 deficiency early, you can reverse the associated memory problems. Treatment is available in the form of a monthly injection.

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What Will The Doctor Do

Any time a person has been hit in the head, it’s important to see a doctor. A doctor will test the person’s ability to recall events, names, or places by asking lots of questions. In the case of a suspected brain injury, a doctor may also want to take a picture of the patient’s brain and skull using something called a CT scan.

If the person has memory loss from a head injury, the doctor will design a treatment plan to help the brain heal and, if necessary, to help the person relearn things that have been forgotten. If the memory problem is due to drug or alcohol use, the person needs to stop abusing these substances before his or her memory will improve.

With strokes, memory can return but it depends on severity and location of the stroke in the brain. With Alzheimer’s, lost memory cannot be restored, but scientists are working on medicines they hope someday will prevent this kind of memory loss.

Most memory problems affect older people, so what can you do for your memory if you’re 8, not 88? In addition to remembering to wear your helmet, use your brain! By doing challenging activities, like reading and doing puzzles, you can exercise your mind so you’ll be remembering great memories for many years to come!

Symptoms Of Brain Lesions

Symptoms of brain lesions depend on the part of the brain affected the most. Not all brain lesions show symptoms. Many cases have been reported in which brain lesions spread to larger areas of the brain without causing any disease signs or symptoms.

On the other hand, some lesion affecting only a small region of the brain show severe symptoms as in Parkinsons disease.

General symptoms seen with all non-specific brain lesions include:

Specific brain lesions cause specific symptoms such as dyskinesias and altered movements in Parkinsons disease and dementia in Alzheimers disease.

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