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Amnesia

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

UBC PATHS Blog Post: Mar 6, 2023


Amnesia, commonly referred to as memory loss, is a deficit in memory which is often caused by damage to the brain from trauma, drugs, alcohol, or disease. Amnesia is typically permanent, and ranges from different types:

  • Retrograde amnesia occurs when you have trouble remembering past events and information that you were once familiar with.

  • Anterograde amnesia relates to the difficulty in acquisition of new memories and remembering new events.

The most common type of amnesia is short-term amnesia, where it is difficult to remember events that happened most recently.


Treatments

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

    • CBT is a type of psychotherapy that helps people recognize and change problematic behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. It can help reduce the symptoms of amnesia by helping the patient identify the triggers that cause their memory loss, and by teaching them strategies to cope with them

  • Medication

    • Certain medications such as anticonvulsants, antidepressants, cholinesterase inhibitors, and neuroleptics can be used to treat amnesia. However, it is important to note that the efficacy of these medications have not been proven in clinical trials and should be taken only with the approval of a medical professional

  • Dietary Changes

    • Eating a healthy diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, and avoiding processed foods, alcohol, and drugs can help improve the overall health of the brain and help reduce the symptoms of amnesia

  • Memory Exercises

    • Memory exercises such as visualization, mnemonics, and systematic organization can help improve a person's memory and help reduce the symptoms of amnesia

Did You Know?

  • Did you know amnesia has a variety of possible causes? Possible causes include brain trauma, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, alcohol, and even emotional shock/trauma.

  • Although amnesia can be a severe and devastating medical condition, it actually happens to all of us. Infantile amnesia is a common psychological phenomena where most people can’t remember the first 3-5 years of their life.

  • In a famous psychological case study, a patient called H.M. had his hippocampus (part of the brain primarily responsible for memory) removed in order to cure his seizures. While his seizures decreased, he experienced anterograde and retrograde amnesia after, meaning he couldn’t form new memories or remember recent pre-existing memories respectively.

Connection to Students

  • Students who have deficits in encoding information may have trouble remembering what they have just read or what their professor said during lectures.

  • There are some causes for poor memory retention in teenagers. One of the reasons could be vitamin B12 deficiency. Research has found that low levels of vitamin B12 deficiency could be correlated with neurocognitive disorder. Other reasons could be heavy consumption of alcohol and smoking marijuana which may lead to a decrease in memory and change in the brain structure and function.

  • Studies have investigated that children who were exposed to prolonged stress and anxiety illustrated alterations in specific parts of the brain such as amygdala which could be a factor for memory loss.

Sources:




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