Short Term Memory Loss – Is it just one of those things?

November 12, 2012

Short Term Memory Loss – Is it just one of those things?

Short term memory loss can occur at anytime and as we get older it can be a natural progression into old age, as long as it doesn’t happen too often. The term actually means that you can’t remember things over a short term. This can leave people confused and anxious because they can remember school days yet cannot remember last week or last month. If it is only part of the aging process then serious long term brain damage does not occur, however if someone does have their brain damaged then the short term memory loss can be permanent. The brain damage can be caused by illness, alcohol, accident or some medications.

If the short term memory loss is permanent then the individual cannot make new memories and become trapped in one time frame. Known as ‘severe anterograde amnesia’ this normally occurs if the episodic region of the brain is damaged, This area is physically in the hippocampus or medial temporal lobes and the cause could be varied from a virus, Alzheimer’s disease or physical injury.

There are cases of people with this type of short term memory loss who awaken every day unaware that they have amnesia. They must relearn and understand on a daily basis that they have this problem. It leaves them in a time somewhere before now and they cannot remember anything since. However everything that was learned before that time is still there. So if someone learned to ride a bike, swim or play a musical instrument then all those skills remain. However if learning to drive a car happened after the episode then that skill is lost. This indicates to neurological experts that the different areas of the brain function in a very modular and separate fashion.

For most people though the effects of short term memory loss are far milder. Usually it is when we forget where we put the car keys, or mislay our spectacles or even forgetting an obvious thing like forgetting what we were going to say mid sentence. If you are in this category then do not worry because there are many reasons for this everyday thoughtlessness.

Stress in today’s modern world affects us all differently and one common symptom is short term memory loss. The stress hormone is a commonly used name for cortisol which is produced, along with adrenaline, during a situation our body finds stressful. However recent research has identified a link between being exposed to too much cortisol and a form of dementia known as mid life memory impairment. This is as good a reason to learn stress management techniques. Start now before you forget!

Some people also class forgetfulness as memory loss. They are not the same. We can easily forget something because we are distracted; our brain is being overpowered by external stimuli. That is not the same as forgetting what happened last month. Forgetting things, as long as you do not do it frequently is just normal behavior. Aging is normal too. Just as the 100 meter sprint is out of the question nowadays then the brain has had better days too. Yet as we age, researchers have found that while the area of the brain which deals with intelligence and knowledge improves there is another area which relates to things like mathematics which declines. But additional research has seen that if you work your brain then it will stay healthier and have less chance of memory loss. And smoking, drinking and a poor diet will all contribute to the brain and body’s decline.

There is actually a form of dementia, known as Korsakoff’s syndrome, which is caused by excessive alcohol consumption. This is different to the normal forgetfulness induced by have one too many.

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are two conditions where cognitive decline is apparent and both of these are usually age related, although there have been a few isolated cases of younger adults getting affected. Accidental damage to the brain can leave the individual with many different types of memory loss and whether it is permanent or temporary depends on the injury.

As medicine progresses there is now a greater range of medications developed to help us with the aging process. However there are other drugs being used for very serious medical conditions such as chemotherapy which we know does cause memory loss as a side effect.

Perhaps we should all remember that as we age things change, not always for the better. And one of these changes is that as we age the brain just does not commit so much to memory as it did all those years ago.

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