Memory problems

Memory loss (amnesia)

What is memory loss?

Memory loss (whether total or partial) is also called amnesia. There are two types of amnesia: retrograde amnesia and anterograde amnesia. Retrograde amnesia is a loss of memory-access to events that occurred or information that was learned before the disorder that caused amnesia. Anterograde amnesia is a loss of the ability to store new memories after the event that caused amnesia.

Temporary amnesia

Temporary amnesia is short-lived. It usually lasts less than 24 hours, but in some cases it can last a few days. The cause of temporary amnesia has not yet been identified, but we do know that stress and heavy physical exertion sometimes have something to do with it.

Sudden amnesia

Sudden or acute amnesia is also mostly short-lived. A well-known example is the Tip-Of-the-Tongue phenomenon (TOT phenomenon). A certain word is figuratively on the tip of your tongue and you know it is there somewhere in your mind, but you cannot come up with it. Usually, you remember the word later on, when there is no more pressure or stress to recall it.

What causes amnesia?

Amnesia is caused by damaged or diseased areas of the brain that are involved with memory. The brain damage or disease of the brain can be due to several factors:

  • Stress
  • Alcohol abuse (Korsakoff syndrome)
  • Old age. Memory loss in the elderly is often a form of dementia
  • A physical or mental illness, such as Alzheimer's disease
  • Bodily injury (such as a blow to the head or a skull fracture)
  • A stroke

Memory loss often occurs as a result of physical injury. After a concussion, the patient usually does not remember anything related to short or longer periods before or after the accident. In such cases, the severity of the injury often determines how long amnesia will endure.

Symptoms related to amnesia

There are other symptoms besides loss of memory by which you can recognise amnesia:

  • Disorientation/confusion
  • Uncoordinated movements (e.g., constantly bumping into a table)
  • False memories
  • Inability to store new information




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