Examining The Causes and Effects of Short Term Memory Loss
Imagine a life where you wake up each morning and cannot remember what you did the day prior. In fact, you cannot even remember what you have done for the week prior. By this time, you have already forgotten waking up. You do not remember the place where you are currently and you have no idea how you got there. This might sound like an episode ofThe Twilight Zone, but sadly this situation is very real for people who have been diagnosed with short term memory loss (otherwise known asanterograde amnesia)
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Short term memory loss can be caused by a number of things. If you have ever binge drank alcohol, you have probably already experienced a minimal version of memory loss. "Black outs" are caused when the individual drinks a high amount of alcohol, thus preventing them from making new memories while under the influence. This is caused by the blood alcohol concentration severely, if not completely, blocking the brain's ability to transfer memories. Another cause is by partaking in psychoactive drugs such as benzodiazepines that include midazolam, flunitrazepam,orezepam, and lorazepam.
The most common causes of serious short term memory loss, however, are through traumatic experiences that range from damage to thehippocampus (the part of your brain that stores information including short and long term memories) to an extreme emotional event that could include anything from witnessing something traumatizing to experiencing it. Certain illnesses play a factor as well. If left untreated, herpes simplex virus type I will cause permanent damage to the hippocampus that will seriously hinder the ability to make new memories.
The primary symptom is forgetfulness. If the memory loss is due to drug use, then there is a chance that the amnesia will wear off in time after a lengthy period of sobriety. However, if the short term memory loss was caused by damage to the hippocampus, then the effects are quite possibly permanent. However, with this type of memory loss the victim still retains the memories they had before the incident that resulted in their memory loss. As well as their prior emotional and informational memories, they also retain procedural memories such as how to speak, how to walk, how to operate a telephone, etc.
For most diagnosed with short term memory loss, life can be a nightmare. New studies are making progress on discovering new ways to help victims recover, but it is an upward slope.
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Bulach R, Myles PS, Russnak M. Double-blind randomized controlled trial to determine extent of amnesia with midazolam given immediately before general anaesthesia. Br J Anaesth. 2005 Mar;94(3):300-5. Epub 2004 Nov 26. PMID 15567810
Di Gennaro G, Grammaldo LG, Quarato PP, Esposito V, Mascia A, Sparano A, Meldolesi GN, Picardi A. Severe amnesia following bilateral medial temporal lobe
Squire LR, Stark CE, Clark RE. The medial temporal lobe. Annu Rev Neurosci. 2004;27:279-306.
For more information about this topic consider these resources:
100 Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer's and Age-Related Memory Loss by Jean Carper
Memory Loss: A Practical Guide for Clinicians - Expert Consult Andrew E. Budson MD (Author), Paul R. Solomon PhD
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