Encyclopedia

Amnesia

Amnesia is a condition, also called amnestic syndrome, characterized by the loss of memories such as facts, information and accumulated life experiences.

In real life, unlike in cinema and television, the condition does not cause a loss of self-identity.

Instead, affected people are usually aware and know who they are, but may have difficulty absorbing new information and forming new memories.

Memory loss can be temporary /transient global amnesia/ and permanent.

What are the symptoms?

There are two main characteristics of the syndrome:

• Impaired ability to perceive new information /anterograde amnesic syndrome/;

• Inability to recall past events and previously perceived information /retrograde amnestic syndrome/;

What are the causes?

The normal process of remembering requires the proper functioning of many parts of the brain and therefore any disease or injury that affects it can affect memory.< /p>

Amnesia can result from damage to the brain structures that make up the limbic system, whose function is to control emotions and memories.

These structures are the thalamus, located deep in the center of the brain, and the hippocampal formations, which are located in the inner space of the temporal lobes of the brain.

When the condition is caused by brain trauma or damage it is referred to as neurological. The possible reasons for the development of neurological amnesia:

• Stroke;

• Inflammation of the brain tissue /encephalitis/ as a result of infection with a virus such as herpes simplex virus for example, an autoimmune reaction to a malignancy somewhere else in the body /paraneoplastic limbic encephalitis/ or as an autoimmune reaction in the absence of cancer;

• Lack of sufficient oxygen to the brain, for example due to a heart attack, respiratory distress or carbon monoxide poisoning;

• Prolonged alcohol abuse leads to thiamin or vitamin B1 deficiency – Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome;

• Tumors in the centers of the brain controlling memory;

• Degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia;

• Seizures;

• Certain medicines such as benzodiazepines;

• Head injuries that cause a concussion, whether from a car accident or a fall, can lead to confusion and difficulty remembering new information.

Another rare form of the condition is called dissociative /psychogenic/ amnesia, resulting from emotional shock or trauma, such as in victims of a serious crime.

In this disorder, the sufferer may lose personal memories and autobiographical information, but usually only briefly.

Treatment of amnesia

Treatment focuses on methods and strategies to help the patient compensate for his lost memory.

The affected person may begin working with an occupational therapist to learn new information to replace that which has been lost or to use residual memory as a basis for perceiving the new information.

Many of those affected find it useful to use modern high-tech devices such as tablets and smartphones.

With a little training and practice, even people with severe amnestic syndrome can use these electronic organizers to help them with everyday tasks.

For example, smartphones can be programmed to remind them, for example, of important appointments during the day or when to take medication.

Prevention

Since brain damage is among the main causes of amnestic syndrome, it is important to take steps to minimize the chances of brain injury:

• Avoid excessive use of alcohol;

• Wear a helmet when cycling and a seat belt when driving;

• Treat any infection promptly to allow it to spread and affect the brain;

• Seek medical attention immediately if you develop symptoms suggestive of a stroke or brain aneurysm;

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