What Does Amnesia Mean?
Amnesia, known as memory loss, is not actually forgetting your entire self as a result of an accident, like in the movies. Amnesia is the forgetting of facts, experiences and information stored in memory. Amnesia is often seen with a head injury or a brain disease. People may forget information about their past, they may not be able to create a new memory, or they may have both problems. However, usually in amnesia, past information is remembered deep down, but newly acquired information is forgotten. For example, while a childhood memory can be remembered, it can be forgotten what dinner was eaten in the evening.
What is Amnesia?
Amnesia is the forgetting of information and memories that we have in the distant past, the last few years, months, days or seconds, that is, memory loss. Amnesia, also known as amnestic syndrome, has more than one type.
Retrograde Amnesia: In this type of amnesia, information from before the event that caused the amnesia is forgotten, that is, it is a retrospective amnesia. Usually, this situation is not seen as forgetting information from years ago, but rather as forgetting information acquired shortly before the event.
Anterograde Amnesia: In this type of amnesia, the information after the event that caused the amnesia is forgotten. It is the inability to learn new information after the event, that is, prospective amnesia. Information from before the event can be remembered. It is more common than retrograde amnesia.
Transient Global Amnesia: Transient global (general) amnesia, on the other hand, is a temporary memory loss that usually resolves within a maximum of 24 hours. In addition to forgetting recent events, a person in this condition cannot record new information in his memory. For this reason, he asks the same questions over and over again, but he knows who he is and knows his relatives, and he can perform many functions that he performs frequently. When amnesia ends, that period of time is lost for the patient, and no records are kept in memory. It is more common in middle age and older and the cause is not well known, the probability of recurrence is low.
Post-Traumatic Amnesia: This amnesia is a type of amnesia that develops immediately after a head injury. Forgetting can include retrograde, anterograde, or both types of amnesia.
Infantile (Infancy) Amnesia: Infantile amnesia is known as the inability of people to remember early childhood memories. Since the regions of the brain that support memory, that is, memory, are developing, few people have memories from 3-5 years ago.
Dissociative/Psychogenic Amnesia: It is a mental health disorder that develops after a significant trauma. The person blocks both the traumatic event and personal information, does not remember it.
What Are the Symptoms of Amnesia?
Before moving on to the symptoms of amnesia, let's get to know memory a little. Memory has the ability to retain and remember information from the past. This ability is located in memory in three stages: encoding, storage and recall. There are types of memory. Two of these can be explanatory to be able to understand amnesia:
Declarative / Explicit Memory (Declarable): Contains information that a person is conscious of, can explain (report) to others. It covers the events that a person has experienced throughout his life, the information he has learned and the facts. Amnesia can cause this information to be erased.
Non-Declarative /Implicit Memory (Undeclared): It is unconscious information that cannot be clearly expressed. Amnesia does not erase this established information. For example, even if you experience amnesia, you will not forget to walk or ride a bicycle.
Memory is stored in different regions of the brain depending on its type and for how long.
Short-Term Memory: Holds and does not process information for as long as it is “in your mind”, that is, for a period of 5 to 30 seconds. The frontal and parietal lobes play a role in short-term memory.
Long-Term Memory: Long-term memory holds information Decently from 1 minute to a lifetime. In fact, it is theoretically accepted that long-term memory has no limits. But of course there is a limit to the ability to remember this information. The hippocampus and the surrounding temporal lobes of the brain are important areas for long-term storage and retrieval of information. Long-term memory actually involves many regions of the brain. For this reason, amnesia may develop as a result of damage to different parts of the brain.
Symptoms of amnesia occur depending on the cause of amnesia. However, the following symptoms are usually observed:
Clouding of conscious ness
Inability to remember familiar faces and places (impaired consciousness of time and place)
Inability to remember the period of amnesia after the person's recovery
Confabulation (making up gaps in memory and filling them with false information)
Amnesia is not dementia (dementia). Dementia is a disease, amnesia is a symptom. The two should not be confused with each other. Dementia usually involves memory loss, but cognitive problems that disrupt daily functioning occur in types of dementia. For example, Alzheimer's patients may not be able to eat, they may not be able to meet the need for the toilet alone.
What Causes Amnesia?
The causes of amnesia are divided into neurological and functional (psychological).
Car and sports accidents, falling from a ladder, injury with a piercing object (such as a bullet), etc.
Diseases Affecting the Brain
Alzheimer's disease and other dementias
Inflammatory Diseases of the Brain
Brain infection (encephalitis)
Immune system-related damage to the brain (autoimmune encephalitis)
Anoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain): Cardiac arrest, carbon monoxide (stove) poisoning, etc. it depends on the reasons.
Vitamin B1 (thiamine deficiency - known as Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome) and vitamin B12 deficiency
Certain medications (for example, sedative /sedative drugs such as benzodiazepines)
Functional (Psychological) Causes
Amnesia of functional origin is less common than neurological causes. It is evaluated as a psychiatric process. It is not related to a brain trauma or disease, but is seen due to emotional trauma. For this reason, it is more in the form of retrograde amnesia. In some cases, it is experienced at an advanced level and the person may even forget their own identity. This trauma can be experienced as a result of a violent crime, sexual or other abuse, war, natural disaster and terrorist attack.
Which Department Should I Go To For Amnesia?
In case of suspicion of amnesia, a Neurology specialist should be consulted. The doctor interviews the patient and their relatives and takes a detailed history, then checks reflexes, balance and sensory functions with a physical examination. Then, in order to observe how much past information is remembered and how much newly given information can be encoded, appropriate neuropsychological tests, imaging (MRI or CT) and EEG examinations are requested in order to detect a possible problem in the brain.
Treatment of Amnesia
There is no single treatment or medication for amnesia, but there are different approaches to the cause. For example; while rest is required after surgical and medical interventions required after a head injury and recovery is seen with light activities, recovery can be achieved with psychological support and the attention of family / relatives after a mental trauma. In chronic alcoholism-induced amnesia, on the other hand, it can benefit from diet, alcohol abstinence and emotional support. For dementia patients, both medication and cognitive support treatments are applied.
If the memory loss is permanent, various learning methods can be applied to compensate. Cognitive rehabilitation benefits the development of new skills in those with anterograde amnesia. Occupational therapies can make it easier to remember the past and keep future information in mind more easily. Psychotherapy can also be beneficial in some amnesias. Family support is important. Photos, smells and music can help at this point. Meditation may also be recommended.
Precautions That Can be Taken Against the Risk of Amnesia
These recommendations can be applied, which can minimize brain damage:
He should avoid excessive alcohol use.
A helmet should be worn when using vehicles such as motorcycles, bicycles and scooters.
Again, appropriate shoes should be worn while playing sports.
Seat belts should be worn in the vehicle under all conditions.
Treatment of infection in the body should be done quickly.
If there are severe headaches, a feeling of numbness in the body, symptoms suggestive of a stroke or brain aneurysm, a doctor should be visited.
Regular exercise, healthy diet, mental activities, quality sleep, stress management, time to social life, not being overweight, avoiding smoking and alcohol are measures that can be taken against diseases such as Alzheimer's.