What are the causes of amnesia? The brain, consisting of giant cells, stores and retrieves information impressively. It is located in the skull within the temporal lobes, the lower lateral lobe of each side or hemisphere of the brain that is on the side of the head, nearest the ears.
Because of its impressive work, the brain is regarded by most scientists as a biological wonder. The neurological process that it plays is relatively complex. The brain stokes information temporary inside the prefrontal cortex (the anterior frontal lobe of the brain, located in front of the premotor areas) in the form of memory. The stored information is then transmitted into the medial temporal lobe. From there, it goes through the hippocampus (a major component of the brains of humans and other mammals) to be processed and be available in due time.
Amnesia refers to total or partial loss of capacity to memorize information and/or remember past memories.
What are the symptoms of amnesia?
Depending on their symptoms, there are at least five (5) types of amnesia.
Anterograde Amnesia – is characterized by the inability to store new memories. The patient cannot remember and forget all the time. Amnesia (Anterograde Amnesia) patients tend to forget what they ate for their last meal. Those who suffer from this mental disease may also suffer from confabulation, filling in gaps in their memory with fabrications that they believe to be facts.
Retrograde Amnesia or Amnesia Evocation – occurs mostly after a head injury. It is characterized by increasing inability to remember the events of the past. The events are stored in the memory, but the patient is unable to bring them to consciousness at the right time.
Retro Anterograde Amnesia is a combination of the two previous types. In this medical condition, the patient presents symptoms of both Anterograde Amnesia and Retrograde Amnesia.
Patchy Amnesia -is characterized by an inability to evoke the contemporary facts of a psychical or physical trauma. Patchy Amnesia suffers tend to present an acute altered state of consciousness (headache, mental confusion, obsession with a banal idea, etc.), or loss of the sense of personal identity.
Transient global amnesia is a transitional amnesia that can last 1 to 10 hours. It is rare and affecting mostly older people suffering from vascular disease. During the episode, the patient repeats constantly the same questions. The cause of Transient global amnesia is not well known to scientists.
Amnesia may be caused by any damage to brain areas related to the functions of memory. The damage can be due to vascular disease, trauma (head injury, stroke), infection (herpes encephalitis associated with fever and disturbance of consciousness), degenerative (Alzheimer’s disease), bleeding (subarachnoid hemorrhage). Although rare, scientists believe a massive weight loss or prolonged deficiency of vitamin B1 (especially observed in alcoholics) can cause Amnesia.
Amnesia can also occur during psychiatric diseases, following an epileptic seizure or a shock. Certain drugs, especially tranquilizers (benzodiazepines) may be responsible for developing memory disorders. Used for a long time, they sometimes induce Anterograde Amnesia or acute memory disorders resembling to stroke amnesiac.
What is the diagnosis of amnesia?
The first step in the diagnostic is trying to identify the causes of the disease. Neurological examinations are necessary to rule out other medical conditions that can manifest the same symptoms: brain tumors, Alzheimer’s disease, cerebral circulatory deficit linked to clotting problem, vitamin B1 deficiency, Wernicke’s disease, etc. As the patient is often unable to provide accurate information, the diagnostic requires the help of his/her family or explicit details of his medical history from his/her primary physician.
Physical examination is always necessary to assess sensory function, and other possible problems of the brain and nervous system. To detect infection, injuries or any lesion in brain, the physician may prescribe blood tests, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerized tomography (CT) and electroencephalogram (EEG). The blood tests are also important to evaluate vitamins deficiency.
The treatment depends on the cause of the memory disorder. The treatment of an emotional-causing amnesia is essentially psychological. The therapy aims to remove inhibitions and bring to the conscience of the patient memories forgotten by the game of free association of ideas. Some medications can stimulate the memory in cases of dysmnesia (memory disorder characterized by an inability to learn simple new skills) professional or school overwork.
A healthy diet plays an important role in recovering from amnesia. Along with a healthy lifestyle, a good diet is capable of preventing most memory disorder including Amnesia. Amnesia sufferers are highly recommended to avoid alcohol and consume polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-3, vitamins C and E, and most importantly Vitamin B1. Green tea is also important because it helps preserve brain function and repair of damaged cells. Drinking green tea regularly can reduce the risk of developing dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.