Jessica Gable
March 22, 2015

Easily Forgotten Hard to Remember

Amnesia refers to the loss of memory and the ability to retain data. Amnesia occurs when there is a problem with the way the brain stores or retrieves memories. Memory is divided into two main divisions based on time span. Short-term memory allows recollection of a small amount of data from seconds to minutes to days. Long-term memory aids in storage and repossession of memories over a longer time span. The bridge between short-term and long-term memory is termed Ďworking memoryí it allows retention of new information with simultaneous retrieval of older memories (baddeley1992). Although TV shows and movies seem to love this for a plot on television amnesia is a very rare condition. Many people also believe amnesia causes a loss of self-identity; however that is rarely the case either. People with amnesia are usually mindful and know who they are, but may have trouble forming new memories and learning new information. Amnesia can be temporary or permanent and there is no specific treatment. People with amnesia usually find it hard to imagine a future because our brains link the future with past experiences.

Although there are many types of amnesia I would like to focus mainly on these three. First being, amnesia caused by brain damage in which the memory loss relates to events occurring after the damage, which is anterograde amnesia. Second being, retrograde amnesia is a memory disorder characterized by an inability to remember events or experiences that occur before a significant point in time. Lastly is transient global amnesia, which is a temporary form of amnesia in which short-term memory is affected. Most people with amnesia have a problem with short-term memory loss and they canít retain new information. Some may recall things from childhood but canít remember what they had for breakfast, what they ate for dinner the night before, or what month it is. Most memory loss doesnít affect a personís intelligence, personality, or identity. People who suffer from amnesia can usually understand written and spoken words and can learn skills such as riding a bike. They may even understand they have a memory disorder.

Amnesia is caused by brain damage or injury, which is also known as an organic cause. Head injuries can cause a concussion, which can lead to confusion and problems remembering new information. But, head injuries usually donít cause severe amnesia. Even emotion can cause amnesia. Dissociative amnesia is normally caused from emotional shock or trauma, which is also referred to as functional causes. A person with dissociative amnesia may lose personal memories, but usually only briefly. Symptoms of amnesia depend on the cause but generally include memory loss, confusion, and inability to recognize familiar faces and places, however once a person recovers, they typically have no memory of their amnesia episode.

The chance of developing amnesia might increase if youíve experienced Brain surgery, stroke, alcohol abuse, or seizures. H.M had brain surgery in 1953 when he was 27 years old. The surgery involved the removal of the hippocampus to ease the symptoms of his epilepsy. Although, the surgery worked for his epilepsy he had terrible side effects. H.M suffered from serious memory loss. His short-term memory was normal but he was completely unable to transfer any new information into his long-term memory. He showed almost no knowledge of current events because he forgot things as soon as he read about it; he knew nothing of his recent move or of his fatherís recent passing. Although, he was able to remember people from his past he was unable to remember new people. This case along with others explains the very selective nature of the problems of anterograde amnesia. In summary, the trauma from the patientís brain surgery resulted in a case of amnesia where he couldnít retain new information.

Now we will look at another example of amnesia, only this time, it is caused by alcohol abuse. In 1889 Sergei Korsakoff, a Russian physician described a severe memory disorder due to brain damage. The most obvious symptoms of what became known as karsakoff syndrome is a severe anterograde amnesia where the patients appear to be unable to form any new memories but can still remember some old ones. Korsakoff syndrome usually results from a thiamine deficiency