Amnesia is the decline in memory.
Essentially, amnesia is loss of memory. Memory can either be entirely lost, or partially lost, depending on the extent of damage that was caused. There are two main types of amnesia: retrograde amnesia and anterograde amnesia. Retrograde amnesia is the inability to recall information that was acquired prior to a certain date. In some cases, memory loss can extend back decades, a few months for some. Anterograde amnesia is the inability to transfer new information from the short-term store into the long-term store. People with anterograde amnesia can’t remember things for extended periods of time. These two types are not mutually exclusive. A patient can suffer both types simultaneously at a time.
Causes of Amnesia
- Any kind of injury to or hazardous action applied towards the brain might cause amnesia. Retrograde and Anterograde amnesia result from head trauma more often. Electroshock therapy would cause both briefly.
- A common example of amnesia that is caused by traumatic events is dissociative amnesia. This occurs when a person forgets a deeply disturbing event, such as a fatal and graphic car accident that a relative was involved in.
- Physical deficiencies are more passive physical issues as opposed to head trauma. Brain surgery would be considered action applied to the brain. Thus, head trauma. But, such surgery that were to cause surrounding areas to atrophy would be viewed as passive action. Henry Molaison is a great example of physical deficiencies, as parts of his brain began to atrophy after a surgical procedure.
Amongst specific causes of amnesia are electroconvulsive therapy and alcohol consumption.
Treatment for Amnesia
Most of the different types of amnesia fix themselves with no treatment. There are solutions to dealing with memory loss if any type of amnesia persists. One is cognitive, or occupational therapy. Therapy will help sufferers develop the memory skills they have and try to regain some that were lost by finding the necessary techniques to help retrieve memories or create new ways of retrieval. Therapy may also consist of strategies that aim to organize information, which would help recall said information more easily and improving understanding of a lengthy dialogue.
Another way of dealing with amnesia is taking advantage of technology, such as a personal device to keep track of daily tasks. Reminders can be used to keep a record of appointments, times to take medications, birthdays, and other important events. Photos can also be stored in the device to help remember names of friends, family members, relatives, or co-workers. Notebooks, calendars, pill boxes, and pictures of people and places (low-tech memory aids) can provide assistance too.
While there are no medications available to treat amnesia directly, medical conditions that are associated with amnesia can be treated to help improve memory. Treating alcoholism and drug use can prevent further damage. However, lost memory won’t be recovered in a majority of cases. The extent of which an amnesiac recovers and the duration of amnesia persisting depend on the type and severity of the lesion.
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