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Epilepsy & Memory Challenges, Pt 2

Friday, July 24, 2020

Memory is the ability to recall experiences and knowledge learned and is divided into short-term memory and long-term memory. Short-term memory contains information that is to be remembered over a period of a few minutes, and long-term memory deals with anything that is to be remembered for longer than that.

‘Encoding’ is the process by which a memory is created. Once the information is recorded it is then passed from the short-term to the long-term memory for storage.

Memory can also be divided into verbal and visual, with verbal memory being the ability to remember information that is perceived aurally (i.e. words and sounds). Visual memory recalls information that was perceived in terms of pictures and faces.

Just like when a store moves product from its back-room storage onto the store shelves, our brain moves information from long-term to short-term memory when we want to recall something. This is called ‘retrieval’.

Problems with remembering can stem from different possible causes:

  • Encoding problem – recording the memory in the first place
  • Storage problem – storing the memory
  • Retrieval problem – recovering the information from long-term memory

Memory Problems

Everyone will experience minor lapses in memory when (a) under stress; (b) trying to concentrate on a few things at once; (c) feeling unwell; and (d) feeling tired.

As we age, memory lapses can become more common; this is normal.

Memory problems, however, can be much more pronounced and long-term, and can be caused by a few things:

  1. A dementia-type illness such as Alzheimer’s;
  2. A brain infection such as encephalitis;
  3. An oxygen shortage to the brain, as in cerebral palsy;
  4. A head injury;
  5. Certain types of strokes
  6. A brain tumour or haemorrhage
  7. Epilepsy, on its own or with one of the above.

There are other issues that can cause memory trouble:

  1. An attention problem – information won’t be recorded in our memory if we aren’t paying attention to it
  2. Anxiety & depression – altered emotional states can negatively impact memory; when we’re worried, our minds are too occupied with those thoughts to properly concentrate on things around them. Likewise, when one is feeling down, lethargy and lack of motivation can reduce attention needed to record a memory.
  3. Sleep disturbances – lack of sleep affects concentration, which again disrupts our attention to information.

For related material, please refer to https://www.epilepsycalgary.com/improving-your-memory/

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