Can medication help with memory loss?


Brief overview

  • description: temporary or permanent memory loss. Different forms of amnesia, for example anterograde, retrograde, global, transient global, congrade and psychogenic amnesia.
  • causes: Accidents with traumatic brain injuries or concussions, epileptic seizures, meningitis, brain inflammation (encephalitis), stroke, dementia, migraines, poisoning, long-term alcohol abuse, drugs such as psychotropic drugs or barbiturates, traumatic experiences.
  • diagnosis: Initial consultation (anamnesis), memory tests, imaging procedures such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRT), single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), measurement of brain waves (EEG)
  • therapy: Treats the underlying cause of the amnesia, e. B. epilepsy, stroke or emotional trauma. In addition, relaxation exercises such as yoga, possibly supplementary drug treatment.
  • Self help: Memory training, relaxation exercises, conversations, music, exercise, healthy eating.

Amnesia: description

The term amnesia comes from the Greek: "a" = "without" and "mnémē" = "memory, memory". Those affected temporarily or permanently lose their memories of experiences and experiences from the past. Often they can no longer store anything new in their memories.

However, the part of the memory in which processes and courses of action are stored is usually not affected. For example, patients with amnesia can tie their shoes or open a bottle of wine. Only the so-called episodic memory is impaired, i.e. the part of the brain in which memories of events and experiences are stored.

Doctors differentiate between different forms of amnesia, whereby the individual clinical pictures often overlap.

Anterograde amnesia

Anterograde amnesia (forward amnesia) is the most common memory disorder. Those affected can only store and retrieve new memory contents poorly or not at all. This form of amnesia mainly affects long-term memory. The short-term memory is mostly intact, so that the patients can still cope with their everyday lives. The memories of the time before the onset of amnesia are also usually not affected.

Retrograde amnesia

People with retrograde amnesia (retroactive amnesia) cannot remember pre-amnesia events.

Retrograde amnesia most often occurs after a brain injury (brain trauma). The memory impairment can disappear after a few seconds or minutes or last for weeks or even months. But there is no connection between the duration of the amnesia and the severity of the brain damage. Basically, however, it can be stated that events that took place shortly before the brain damage was forgotten much more quickly than events that occurred a long time ago.

However, even if some memories come back over time, some memory lapses will persist. Retrograde amnesia almost always occurs together with anterograde amnesia.

Global amnesia

Global amnesia is that most severe form of memory impairment. Patients can no longer call up memories of experiences, events and experiences dating back years or decades. At the same time, they can no longer record and save any new memory content - so they can no longer learn anything.

Here, too, the memory for processes and procedures (procedural memory) remains intact. For example, patients still know how to drive a car, but they can no longer find their way around on the road. Global amnesia is incurable.

Transient global amnesia

The transient (temporary) global amnesia (TGA) sets in acutely, affects all memory contents and disappears again just as suddenly. Doctors also speak of one episodic amnesia. The memory loss usually lasts between one and 24 hours; On average, those affected cannot remember anything for between six and eight hours.

The transient global amnesia is working forward and backward at the same time. Sufferers can only access new information for 30 to 180 seconds (anterograde amnesia). As a result, they can no longer orientate themselves, do not know where they are, what date is current and what is happening around them.

At the same time, old memory contents that were saved before the TGA can no longer be called up. If at all, those affected are usually better able to remember recent events rather than past events.

However, activities learned before the amnesia, such as cooking or playing cards, are still possible.

The transient global amnesia will go away on its own without leaving any long-term damage. Experts estimate that three to eight out of 100,000 residents develop TGA every year. Two thirds of the patients are between 50 and 70 years old. In 85 percent of these amnesia patients, doctors identified pronounced physical exertion, emotional-psychological stress, jumping into the cold water or sex as the trigger.

Congrade amnesia

In this form of amnesia, only the memory of the triggering event, such as an accident, disappears. The retroactive reminder works without any problems; those affected can also take in new things and store them in their memories.

Psychogenic amnesia

In doing so, those affected suppress memories of traumatic situations, experiences and events.

Amnesia: causes

Amnesia can have various causes and appear as a side effect of various diseases. A basic distinction is made between organic and psychogenic triggers:

Psychogenic amnesias are based on extreme emotional stress caused by traumatic experiences. Those affected suppress these experiences, which were perceived as extremely unpleasant, and can no longer remember them.

Organic amnesias occur with disorders in the brain or after damage to the brain tissue. These are triggered, for example, by:

  • Accidents resulting in traumatic brain injuries or concussion
  • Meningitis
  • Inflammation of the brain (encephalitis)
  • Stroke (apoplexy, stroke)
  • Dementia, for example Alzheimer's
  • Poisoning (intoxication)
  • longstanding alcohol abuse
  • Medicines, for example psychotropic drugs, barbiturates

Diseases with this symptom

Find out here about the diseases that can cause the symptom:

Amnesia: When Should You See a Doctor?

If you frequently cannot remember the past or can no longer reliably retrieve new information, you should definitely consult a doctor. Because behind amnesia there can be various diseases that need to be treated.

Amnesia: what does the doctor do?

In the initial meeting for Medical history survey The doctor will ask you when you first noticed the memory loss, whether you suffer from certain illnesses or take medication or whether there is a connection between the memory loss and certain events (e.g. an accident). The statements of relatives and friends can also be important. The answers to these questions can provide an initial indication of the type of amnesia you may be suffering from.

If the suspicion of amnesia increases in the anamnesis, different ones follow Memory tests at. The short-term memory is checked, for example, by having you repeat longer and longer series of numbers from memory. There are various standardized test procedures for checking long-term memory. One example is the minimal mental status test. Patients have to remember words, do arithmetic, draw and follow simple instructions. With the help of the results, the doctor can assess how severely long-term memory is impaired.

Imaging procedure Such as computer or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain, for example, show whether there is a cerebral hemorrhage, bruises, tumors or other injuries that can explain the amnesia.

In addition, the doctor will check whether all areas of the brain are adequately supplied with blood. To do this, he uses single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), for example. This nuclear medicine procedure can be used to assess the condition of tissues and organs. To do this, the doctor injects you with a radioactively marked contrast agent (tracer) that is deposited in the organ (brain) to be examined. The doctor uses a special camera to measure the radiation emanating from the marked tissue. A computer forms a 3-D image from the measured values. The SPECT can also provide evidence of Alzheimer's or epilepsy.

The Measurement of brain waves (Electroencephalography, EEG for short) shows whether epilepsy caused the amnesia.

Amnesia therapy

Treatment for amnesia depends on the cause. For example, if the memory loss is due to epilepsy, encephalitis, Alzheimer's disease or a stroke, these underlying diseases must be treated.

If the amnesia is caused by a psychological trauma, psychotherapy can help. Depth psychological and behavioral approaches are used - depending on the patient and previous history. Relaxation methods are also recommended, because stress can impair memory performance. These include, for example, autogenic training, progressive muscle relaxation or yoga. Sometimes medication is used in addition.

Important investigations

These examinations help to find out the causes of the symptoms:

Amnesia: You can do that yourself

Amnesia cannot be prevented. However, there are some things you can do on your own if you already have amnesia. All tasks and activities that train the memory are then helpful. Relaxation exercises, talking to friends, music and exercise can also help the memory on the jumps. The same applies to a healthy diet that prevents hardening of the arteries - including in the brain.

Support groups have the following tip: people with amnesia should start with familiar things and surround yourself with familiar things. At the same time, they should design their environment in such a way that it stimulates the brain to learn.

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