Losing Memory; "The Advantage of Having a Bad Memory Is That You Can Enjoy the Same Good Things for the First Time Several Times." - Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), German Philosopher, "A Bad Memory" (1878)

Article excerpt


THIS is an aging person's nightmare: Waking up one day and not knowing who he or she is. Yes, it doesn't just happen in the movies. Now we all forget a person's name or where we put the house keys or where we parked the car in the mall. This is normal. But when does memory loss become a cause of concern? What kind of memory loss points to a bigger danger such as Alzheimer's disease?

Memory Banks. Memory is the function and ability to recall facts and events. Researchers have identified three stages in this skill:

* Encoding (Stage 1) is the first phase where a person takes in the information. For example, someone introduces herself to you: "Hello, I'm Jackie."

* Consolidation (Stage 2) is the second phase where information is processed and gets stored in specific areas of the brain. Some people automatically associate a new person's name with certain features or circumstances. For example: "Jackie, the receptionist in the doctor's clinic with short hair and a wide smile, etc."

* Retrieval (Stage 3) is the third phase where a person is able to recall the particular information stored. For example, in a follow-up visit, you see the receptionist with short hair and a wide smile. She says hello. And immediately, you answer: "Oh hello Jackie, how are you?"

Now this is the problem. If you forget a name, an appointment, a chore, it's normal. On the other hand, if you are in your 50s or 60s, forgetting can be an early symptom of early Alzheimer's.

Causes of Memory Loss. Still, it helps to know that you're not necessarily on your way to senile dementia. Since memory can be divided into stages, things can go wrong anywhere along the process. What if you heard Jackie's name wrong the first time around? Or if, when she was introducing herself, you were filling out clinic data forms? There are many factors in forgetting. But some implicated conditions for memory loss are:

* Stress and anxiety (the downside of cramming for an exam!)

* Alcoholism

* Depression

* Infections

* Medications (for example, drugs for seizures, insomnia, chronic pain)

* Infections

* Vitamin B12 deficiency

* Metabolic diseases - diabetes, thyroid disease, lung, liver or kidney failure

It is reasonable to expect that as these conditions are treated, the memory loss is reversed.

Over and above these reasons however is time. The enemy of memory is time. …