Memory Loss Treatment: Find out everything
“It’s on the tip of my tongue, but I can’t quite place it.” “What’s her name again?” “I know I came into the kitchen for something…” We all experience the occasional blip in our memory. Memory loss is a natural process of aging. If the forgetfulness occurs frequently, however, it could be a sign of a more serious problem. Memory loss treatment such as lifestyle adjustments, medications, and therapies can help overcome this stressful symptom. Find out more in this article.
What is Memory?
Memory is a term which describes the process of encoding, storing, and retrieving information in the brain. The faculty of memory is controlled by neurons, specialized brain cells that communicate with nerves throughout the body using chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. It is imperative for the perception of everyday experiences, as well as for learning.
Memory loss is a deficit in the information processing system of memory. When someone suffers memory loss, they might be unable to remember events from the past or forget the details of new information. The condition might be transient, meaning it resolves after a short period of time, or it could last indefinitely. The extent of the deficit treatment both depend on the type of memory loss and its cause.
Short-Term Memory Loss
Short-term memory temporarily holds information needed for a limited time—making the details easily retrieved in the near future. The brain holds approximately seven pieces of information in short-term memory for several seconds before being discarded. An example of applying short-term memory is dialing a phone number recently recited. When there is a deficit in short-term memory, events that occurred years prior can be recalled, but information from minutes ago is forgotten.
Causes of Short-Term Memory Loss
Short-term memory loss occurs for a variety of reasons. Some cases are related to lifestyle, while others are caused directly by medical complications.
- Head injuries—Trauma to the head, like a concussion, has the potential to result in short-term memory loss.
- Infections of the brain
- Mental health disorders—Depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia are the most common mental illnesses that impact memory.
- Dementia—Dementia is a group of symptoms effecting memory and cognitive skills. Alzheimer’s disease and Lewy body dementia are two examples of dementia.
- Brain tumors
- Damage to brain tissue—Certain neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, result in damage to the brain tissue which influences memory.
- Medications—Antidepressants and benzodiazepines especially effect memory.
- Poor sleep
- Blood clots—When a blood clot travels the brain, it can disturb areas of the brain that control memory.
- Bleeding of the brain—Brain bleeds kill brain cells.
- Vitamin deficiencies—A diet inadequate in vitamins like B12 causes many neurological symptoms.
Long-Term Memory Loss
Long-term memory also includes the way in which the brains stores information. Contrarily to short-term memory, long-term memory is designed to hold an unlimited amount of information indefinitely. The information stored in long-term memory lasts minutes to years. Events of the past are examples of long-term memory. This could be remembering the alarm clock beeping on Monday morning two weeks ago to the memories of a former high school dance. Loss of long-term memory makes it difficult to retrieve available memories from more than a few seconds in the past.
Causes of Long-Term Memory Loss
Long-term memory loss shares a few common causes as short-term memory loss.
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Stroke—A stroke is a condition that effects the vascular arteries in the brain. As blood supply is interrupted, brain cells die, and long-term memory loss can result.
- Hypoxia—Hypoxia, or insufficient blood supply, deprives the brain from oxygen.
- Seizures—Epilepsy and seizure disorders interfere with electrical signals in the brain.
- Brain tumors
- Hydrocephalus—Excess fluid around the brain leads to mild and severe long-term memory loss.
- Vitamin deficiencies—B12 is important for memory.
- Mental health problems
- Dementia—Long term memory loss is also a symptom of frontotemporal dementia and vascular dementia.
Memory Loss Treatment: Mnemonics
With a better understanding of the types and causes of memory loss, the next focus should be memory loss treatment. Mnemonics is a memory device that organizes information for efficient storage and retrieval.
There are many forms of mnemonics with different methods of organizing information: acronyms, rhymes, models, images, songs, poems, music, notes, spelling, and more. Mnemoics are even incorporated into school lessons. You’ve probably heard of the rule, “I before e except after c” during English and singing songs to learn all 50 U.S. states—those are mnemonics.
Memory Loss Treatment: Brain Games
Brain games consist of regular activities and technology apps that target cognitive function. Research suggests that brain games are an integral component to memory loss treatment for less severe cases and studies emphasize the benefits on memory for pediatric patients (Harms, 2012). They keep the brain active through a series of matching, dividing shapes and numbers, and memorizing sequences of information. It incorporates fun into memory loss treatment in a way that is not obvious. Jigsaw puzzles, crosswords, board games, sudoku, or CogniFit’s memory training program do not seem medical!
Memory Loss Treatment: Physical Activity
Much like “brain exercise,” physical exercise serves as memory loss treatment too. Exercise releases endorphins, which are hormones that activate receptors in the nervous system to protect the brain. The added circulation of blood throughout the brain also supplies the brain networks with plenty of oxygen to remain sharp in memory.
Medical professionals from the Mayo Clinic recommend 30 to 60 minutes of exercise several times a week. This not only treats current memory loss, but it is known to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Leading universities studied the impact of walking, weightlifting, and tone exercises on brain MRI. While any exercise is helpful, the results proved weightlifting is the exercise of choice for memory loss treatment. Train all major muscle groups twice a week, ensuring a proper recovery period of at least one 24-hours between sessions.
Other exercise suggestions are Pilates, swimming, hiking, walking, or rowing with dumbbells and resistance bands to increase the weight challenge.
Memory Loss Treatment: Sleep
Sleep has a vital role in the long-term memory process. During deep sleep, brain waves transfer memories from the brain’s hippocampus to the prefrontal cortex where memories are stored. Individuals who do not receive quality sleep have information that never reaches the section of the brain where memories are stored. However, implementing a rigid sleep schedule counteracts the process of memory loss induced by a lack of rest. Practice good sleep hygiene—establish a bedtime routine, avoid watching television in bed, do not eat a large meal before bed, and limit caffeine and alcohol consumption. These habits make deep sleep more of a possibility.
Memory Loss Treatment: Nutrition
Certain foods and preservatives are linked to a decline in memory, as they do not promote brain health. For example, a diet high in saturated fat clogs blood vessels and hinders circulation around the entire body—the brain included! Food additives such as nitrosamines trigger the liver to produce fats toxic to the brain and diacetyl causes plaque to build in the brain furthering memory loss.
- Processed meats
- Processed cheeses
- Beer or nitrite containing beverages
- Complex carbohydrates—white pasta, sugar, bread in excess spikes insulin and increases brain inflammation
It is safe to say that a well-rounded diet with ideal carbohydrate, protein, and fat ratio is proper memory loss treatment.
- Green leafy vegetables
- Simple carbohydrates—fruits
- Antioxidant rich berries
- Dark chocolate
- Fish—rich in the brain fuel Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids
- Nuts and seeds—walnuts, hazelnuts, chia seeds, flax, and almonds have omega fats
Memory Loss Treatment: Vitamin B12
For a number of reasons, someone consuming a healthy diet is still susceptible to vitamin deficiencies. Vitamin deficiencies are a frequent cause of short and long-term memory loss. B12 is critical for the function of the central nervous system. It maintains the nerve cells that the brain uses to communicate, and it keeps the red blood cells rich in oxygen to undergo the process of memory storage and retrieval. There is no evidence that dietary supplements treat memory loss caused by dementia. Speak with a medical professional before starting over the counter supplements.
Memory Loss Treatment: Psychotherapy
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, seeks to eliminate symptoms of emotional distress by targeting non-adaptive behaviors, beliefs, thoughts, emotions, and life skills. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is frequently used as memory loss treatment. With the assistance of a mental health professional, the therapist facilitates the necessary tools to improve executive functions.
By focusing on identifying cognitive patterns contributing to the client’s symptoms, underlying memories can be uncovered and processed. Whether its depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, or post-traumatic stress disorder, psychotherapy is best for those with mental health disorders at the root of their memory loss. Still, memory loss is undoubtedly troublesome for the person unable to recall their most cherished memories. All can potentially benefit from psychotherapy as memory loss treatment to manage unresolved negative feelings.
Memory Loss Treatment: Routine
A routine is a set of tasks that occur regularly. The frequency of a routine ranges from daily to weekly or monthly. Waking at 6 AM every weekday, preparing a bowl of cereal, and then folding laundry before getting dressed for a mid-day walk is a prime instance of routine. Any alteration in routine is detrimental to those with memory loss. Stable routines are relevant in memory loss treatment. Sticking to a set routine provides reliable caregivers and environmental stimuli that supply memory retrieval cues while maintaining independence and executive functions. Doing an activity often lends enough practice to preserve that particular function. Forgetting how to perform a task in a daily routine is not as likely.
Memory Loss Treatment: Manage Underlying Medical Issues
Occasionally, memory loss stems from a deeper medical condition in which forgetfulness manifests as a symptom. When standard memory loss treatment is unsuccessful, it is wise to consider the treatment of an underlying disorder. For example, as previously mentioned, seizure medication treats memory loss from epilepsy and uncontrolled seizures.
Chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery are medical treatments for memory loss caused by a tumor in the brain. The go-to treatment varies according to the underlying medical problem.
One of the most prevalent medical causes of memory loss is dementia. Dementia is a group of cognitive symptoms secondary to damage of the brain cells in regions responsible for memory and cognitive skills. There are several types of dementia, but Alzheimer’s disease makes of 60 to 80 percent of cases followed by vascular dementia and Lewy body dementia. Aside from memory deficits, dementia impairs language and communication, attention, reasoning, and visual perception. The majority of dementia cases are progressive.
The types of dementia are treated similarly with cholinesterase inhibitors—a medication treating memory loss by preventing the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. With excess acetylcholine, remaining nerve cells communicate with the brain more efficiently through specialized pathways. Severe cases of dementia warrant a medication named memantine to regulate glutamate, which is a second neurotransmitter involved in memory processes.
Other Neurodegenerative Disorders
Alzheimer’s and other forms of progressive dementia are classified as neurodegenerative disorders. However, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease are also motor disorders that progress to cause the cognitive symptoms of dementia from neuron death.
Huntington’s disease is a genetic disorder with symptoms arising between ages 30 and 50. Scientists have discovered that Huntington’s is caused by a gene mutation that produces proteins with an abnormally long polyglutamine sequence (Hague, 2005). Excess polyglutamine is toxic to the brain, which is why the brain atrophies. The cognitive symptoms of Huntington’s are treated with lifestyle adjustments like diet, exercise, but memory loss is also treated with medications. Antipsychotic drugs treat memory loss exacerbated by hallucinations and psychosis. Antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are prescribed to decrease depression and anxiety that contributes to memory loss.
Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder characterized by tremors, loss of automatic movements, rigid movements, speech changes, and many cases progress to symptoms of dementia. Its symptoms originate from low concentrations of dopamine in the brain.
Treating Parkinson’s disease with medications improves memory loss.
- Levodopa—Levodopa is a natural chemical that the brain converts to dopamine.
- Dopamine agonists—Dopamine agonists mimic the effects of dopamine in the brain without being converted into the neurotransmitter.
- MAO B Inhibitors—MAO B Inhibitors prevent the breakdown of dopamine by inhibiting the brain enzyme that metabolizes dopamine.
Depression, anxiety, dissociative disorders, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress disorder are all mental disorders connected to memory loss termed pseudodementia. Although depression and anxiety usually affect short-term memory, patients with mental illness were found to have deficits in episodic memory—the memory of past events. Researchers hypothesize that the inability to remember significant events results from trauma. The exact cause of mental illness and memory loss is debatable because its impact on the brain is widespread. Mental illness causes immense stress, which overloads the brain zapping energy from processes like memory. Executive functions like attention and concentration are also inhibited by mental illness. Those with mental illness are less inclined to recall details they were not paying attention to.
A medical professional is central to memory loss treatment in these cases. Through lifestyle adjustments, therapy, and prescription medications, memory loss can drastically improve for mental illness patients. Classes of the latter are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), tricyclic antidepressants, and benzodiazepines for acute anxiety. The incorrect combination of medications can temporarily worsen memory loss, so it is a trial and error process alongside your doctor.
Harms, W. (2012). Puzzle play helps boost learning of important math-related skills. Retrieved from https://news.uchicago.edu/story/puzzle-play-helps-boost-learning-important-math-related-skills
Hague SM, Klaffke S, Bandmann O Neurodegenerative disorders: Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry 2005;76:1058-1063.
Hazzouri, A., Caunca, M.R., Nobrega, C.J, et al. (2018). Greater depressive symptoms, cognition, and markers of brain aging. Neurology, 90 (23). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1212/WNL.0000000000005639.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017). Memory loss: When to seek help. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/in-depth/memory-loss/art-20046326
Cheyanne is currently studying psychology at North Greenville University. As an avid patient advocate living with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, she is interested in the biological processes that connect physical illness and mental health. In her spare time, she enjoys immersing herself in a good book, creating for her Etsy shop, or writing for her own blog.