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Amnesia: Alteration of the memory

Memory is an indispensable part of what we are, in which will be recording what we have felt through sight, hearing, taste, touch or smell. Thanks to her we remember from our loved ones who we just know, from the dates of birthdays or anniversaries to the next appointment. But what happens when the memory is affected?
All have been able to suffer at any given time a failure of memory, that we have forgotten a commitment either to not remember the name of any person; but when this ceases to be somewhat anecdotal and punctual, we must consider the possibility of making us a Neuropsychological examination to rule out pathologies associated with alterations of memory as amnesia. Then review what is amnesia, are its symptoms and how it is produced, as well as diagnosis and treatment.

What is amnesia?

It is an alteration of the more or less permanent memory that it is unable to access part or all of our memories. Taking into account that in the memory are mainly involved three processes:
  • The first creation of the memory, where you learn new names and situations. Everything we perceive is information that is available for brief moments in our brain, in what is called short-term memory, and is responsible for selecting the relevant that we remember; If distracted requirements at that time, for example speak of a subject of our interest after submitting us a person, can we not be able to remember his name. Using the computer model it would be the equivalent of the RAM, which loses all information containing once the appliance shutdown.
  • The second, storage, once chosen the important our neurons recorded participating in that process different regions of the brain, where you create the "memory footprint" that will accompany us for years, in what is known as long-term memory. Continuing with the model of the computer, it would amount to the hard disk, where is contained the information despite the time that passes.
  • The third, recovery, where you can access the memory. This, despite being a process that may seem minor, is important to not mix memories, and to remember precisely the moment or the name you need. This is where will be mainly the therapeutic intervention for the recovery of patients with amnesia, teaching new information management strategies.
Any alteration of any of these processes will lead to an inability to remember, either because it was not recorded and therefore there is nothing to recover; because damaged support where it was registered (the corresponding brain region); or because recovery recorded is not functioning properly.
This change can affect both the recovery of past events (retrograde amnesia), which is the best known subtype; as to the inability to learn and thus form new "traces of memory" (anterograde amnesia). Both subtypes are not exclusive, so it may occur at the same time.

What cause amnesia?

There are many causes that can alter memory and cause amnesia, from inadequate intake of certain substances as psychotropic drugs (drug-induced amnesia) or alcohol (Korsakoff syndrome), traumatic brain injury (post-traumatic amnesia), some types of infections such as encephalitis, physical malformations of the brain involving memory-related areas (organic amnesia), and even traumatic events that can cause shock (lacunar amnesia) or emotional disorder (dissociative amnesia).
It is easy to know the time of onset of disorder especially if it occurs after an accident or poisoning, but sometimes the cause may take longer to find, despite the evident effects on memory, especially if you are based in a traumatic event or organic origin.
As mentioned previously, any of these causes may affect any of the three processes, acquisition, saved or "memory footprint" recovery, with what would make it impossible to his memory.
Like any muscle, our brains must be oiled properly, overworked, a continued disuse or exciting substance intake may cause an atrophy, partial or total in its internal organization, and thereby cease to function properly.

Symptoms of amnesia

Symptoms of amnesia are basically focused on the loss of access to the memory, either from data specific and timely, dates or names, to more general events and even own bibliography of the person. Depending on the severity of the disorder, involvement will be of greater or lesser magnitude, even causing them to remember nothing of the past.
This loss of memory, when it is more serious and extensive, can lead to further deterioration in occupational and interpersonal relations of the person, antisocial behavior to try to relieve social pressure he feels when he is unable to function in society.
It is worth mentioning that although is can cause a deficit in the declarative memory, i.e., can that person isn't capable of narrating the events of the past, remains intact the processual memory, thanks to which we can cope in daily life, which we know to perform tasks such as walking, the lace...
Common is that there is a loss of memory of the moments leading up to events like car accidents involving a blow on the head or by alcohol poisoning, because the brain not had enough time to record "the footprint of memory", and this is impossible to be able to recover it.

Diagnosis of amnesia

Diagnosis of amnesia will basically depend on the fact that caused it. Thus, in case of accident early detection of memory disturbance is usually performed through exploration of own workforce who treats you, thanks to the emergency protocols, and where evaluates their level of awareness, so that intervention can be started as soon as the person to stabilize and thereby to expect a better prognosis, provided that it is reversible.
In other cases, it is essential to the detection by family and friends that something is wrong, since omitted talk of a certain stage of their life without apparent reason, have difficulties with the proper use of words clogging when talking about or is unable to remember dates or names, or even learn new tasks.
The person suffering, especially in the beginning, doesn't it give the importance due to their "failure of memory", attributing them to temporary causes such as stress, fatigue or lack of attention, without realizing account that may be concealing a disorder that must be diagnosed and treated in time.
For diagnosing amnesia, it is necessary to conduct an assessment of Neuropsychological battery of tests, which will be evaluated performance in different memory tasks to explore the extent and severity of trauma, where there is.
At this point we must distinguish the amnesia of others lost memories, as the associated to age because of natural aging, or those caused by disorders such as dementia, which includes the best-known case, Alzheimer's. In both circumstances it is a progressive loss of memory and memories, more or less accused, unlike amnesia, which is episodic and sudden.

Treatment of amnesia

Some of the forms of existing amnesias are incurable, especially those that are associated with disorders of the brain, whether due to malformation congenital or acquired by head injury; at other times, the effects usually disappear spontaneously in a short time, as in the case of transient global amnesia lasting less than 24 hours.
Depending on the type of amnesia is sustained will apply a treatment or another, sometimes more medical supervision is required to maintain controlled cholesterol or blood pressure; in others it must intervene in the cause directly treating the disease, as in the case of the thyroid, liver or kidney.
In other patients, it is important to apply occupational therapy, which teaches the person to develop strategies that help to compensate for their loss of memory, so that you can lead a normal life, which will employ strategies of information organization, and even technological tools such as PDAs or notebooks that help you to remember important events and appointments.
Psychotherapy is more indicated for those cases where there is a significant psychological component involved, as it occurs in amnesia lacunar, where a stressful or traumatic event causes inability to partial or total of retrieving information. The most extreme case would be dissociative amnesia, in which the person is unable to recall important personal information.
In addition, it is important to count with the collaboration of family members who live with the person who suffers from amnesia, so serve them support in moments of bewilderment, as well as to alleviate the limitations that could cause. It is also good to participate in aid groups where release concerns and emotional tension that causes the disorder.

Tips to prevent the effects of amnesia

Just like in any other muscle, the brain health depends on the quantity and quality of what do you work. Among the tips for having a good memory, preventing in this way the emergence of some cases of amnesia, would be the following:
  • Try to keep you busy in multiple activities that involve going out and interact with others, because this way you'll be exercising much of your memory.
  • It's sleep about eight hours a day, since they are which requires your brain to archive the memories of that day.
  • It avoids stress situations, as they disrupt the normal functioning of the brain and therefore the memory.
  • It's healthy living, without excesses, usually eating vegetables and exercise moderately, as the walk in, that will extend not only the health of your brain but your life itself.
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