A lot of people that I see and care for are concerned about memory loss.
Changes in memory can occur because of
- Chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart conditions
- Neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s
- Stress or trauma
Sometimes it’s helpful for people to understand what “memory” is and how memories are made before they can understand if they are “losing it.”
So what is memory, exactly?
Memory is a description of a number of different brain functions. The thing that binds the functions together is our brain’s ability to re-create past experiences.
When our brain re-creates the many moments already lived, our neurons, which are the basic units of our nervous system that are involved in creating your memory, reactivate by charging up and firing together.
For example, the ability to recall listening to a famous speech, or recognizing a face on demand, and performing the skill of riding a bike has to do with your brain being able to reconstruct the past experience of learning these things.
How is a memory made?
When our neurons fire together as we experience or learn something, the brain is primed so the next time we have to recall a learned skill or fact, the same neurons tend to fire together again.
When our neurons fire in a pattern, your brain processors generate a “memory” based on that experience. The act of recollection (or recalling on your actual experiences) causes the same neurons to fire again over time. This same process is the basis for how the networks of a computer and AI processes have been built. This means that if you repeatedly reconstruct an event, it will be increasingly easy to recall.
Because our brain houses billions of neurons, it it unusual for us to loose all of the parts of our memory except with illness such as dementia.
How much of memory loss is normal?
The most common causes of memory loss are:
- Mild cognitive (or thinking) impairment,
- Dementia, such as Alzheimer’s Disease
- Neurological conditions and other health conditions
Age related memory change is common. This happens when it takes a moment to recall things that you once could pull up in a split second, as well as minor memory lapses. However, the process of aging itself does not cause an equal loss or destruction of our memory nor our ability to perform tasks and skills that have been learned all the way back to childhood.
The good thing is that if something does slips your mind, there are certain cues, thoughts, actions and activities that you can use in order to help recall what you think you have lost. This type of “mental engagement” means that you have a battle to fight, but a battle well-fought is one in which you learn and engage in key preventive methods to combat dementia throughout your life.
Your Brain Doctor is for you to make a plan to keep your memory and your nervous system healthy now and in the future.