In this article we will explore the definition of short-term memory loss, and its possible causes.
What is short-term memory loss
When a person is experiencing short-term memory loss, they will be able to easily remember major life events from the past, but will be confused and forgetful about the details of events that happened just a short while ago, such as what they had for breakfast, or where they left their keys.
Causes of short-term memory loss
There are various possible reasons for short-term memory loss.
The most common cause for short-term memory loss is Alzheimer’s disease, or some other form of dementia (a group of memory related diseases).
Short-term memory loss is one of the first symptoms of dementia, and is an indicator that a check-up is needed in order to get a professional diagnosis.
In other cases, short-term memory loss can be caused by various mental conditions, or from a physical injury or trauma caused by external force.
One possible cause for short-term memory loss is brain aneurysm. Aneurysms are bulging spots that take place on the wall of arteries in the brain. The aneurysms can cause bleeding to other compartments of the brain, which damages and possibly destroys brain cells.
Other common memory loss causes are:
- Brain tumor
- Cancer treatment
- Brain infection
- Alcohol and drug abuse
- Heart bypass surgery
- A traumatic event
Amnesia is a state in which the person completely forgets memories, facts, information and life events. Unlike a temporary episode of memory loss of forgetfulness, amnesia can last much longer and even become permanent.
People with amnesia will usually remember who they are, but will completely lose the ability to store new information in the brain so they will not have the ability to learn any new skills, get familiar with new people, etc.
Sudden memory loss
“Sudden memory loss” is when a person, who usually has well-functioning memory, experiences memory loss very suddenly. Examples of this are: forgetting where they are, what they are doing, what day it is today or what has just happened a moment ago.
Sudden memory loss is a red flag and should be checked right away, as it is not a result of a progressive memory related disease.
Possible causes for a sudden memory loss are:
Alcohol and drugs – After use of large amounts of alcohol or mind altering substances, it is quite common to experience disorientation and memory loss, and in some cases even a complete blackout (forgetting completely what has happened for a few hours).
Medications – Certain medications, especially psychiatric medications such as anti-anxiety pills, antidepressants and tranquilizers can cause sudden memory loss, especially when taken for the first time, or in large amounts.
Brain injury/concussion – Memory loss can be caused by a physical trauma, and in case you or someone you know experience sudden memory loss after an injury, you should go to the hospital right away as it can be a medical emergency.
Short-term and long-term memory loss
It is important to understand the differences between short-term and long-term memory.
Different parts in the brain are responsible for processing and storing short-term and long-term memories.
Short-term memory includes recent events (from the last 4-5 days), as well as present sensory input – sounds, smells, sights, etc.
The brain has a small capacity for short-term memory, in contrast to long-term memory. The items that are stored in the short-term memory are limited to a certain amount, after which the brain starts to ‘delete’ them (imagine trying to memorize a phone number or the directions to a certain place, you can only memorize a limited amount of items before starting to forget some).
Long-term memory is stored for a much longer period of time, and includes major life events, skills, knowledge, and language.
Tests for short-term memory loss
The tests for clinical diagnosis of short-term memory loss include a combination of cognitive skills tests, which help the professional get an impression of the individual’s ability to think, focus and concentrate. Some doctors will also do blood tests, as sometimes a lack of vitamin B-12 or some thyroid disease can play a role in short-term memory loss as well.
What to do if you experience short-term memory loss
The most important thing to start with is a professional diagnosis, as there are many potential causes for short-term memory loss, and it is necessary to know the cause in order to get the best treatments.
In most cases, the best strategy to improve memory is a combination of nutrition, high-quality brain supporting supplements, and a healthy lifestyle (physical activity, avoiding processed foods, etc.).
In the past few years, there have been many researches indicating that certain natural ingredients, such as the lion’s mane (heriniceum erinaces), when extracted properly, can significantly improve brain functioning and memory.