Memory Loss & Mild Cognitive Impairment

Memory Loss & Mild Cognitive Impairment

In our clinic we offer a number of solutions for memory related problems.

Information about the disorder:

Human Memory LossMemory is the process by which information is encoded, stored and then retrieved in the brain. Encoding is the registration action through which information from our sense organs reaches the brain in the form of neural signals. Storage is the process of creation of a permanent record of the encoded information, and retrieval (recall or recollection) is the process of calling back the stored information in response to some cue for use in a process or activity.

As part of brain’s higher functioning, learning, memory, attention, thought processing and consciousness are all integrated. Various parts of the brain, including the cortex, limbic system, thalamus and reticular formation are involved in these activities.

There are a number of physiologically different memory types:

Sensory memory holds sensory information for a few seconds or less. It is the process of signals arising from receptors reaching the brain and creating the perception.

Short-term memory is limited in capacity and allows recall for a period of several seconds to a minute without any rehearsal. For most people 7-10 digits or 4-5 items can be stored in this memory. In its proposed mechanism neural circuits and their synaptic connections and neurotransmitter levels are responsible for the generation and decay of this memory.

Intermediate -term memory persists for about thirty seconds to thirty minutes. It is believed that this form of memory exists between working memory and long-term memory.

Long-term memory can store large quantities of information for potentially unlimited duration, sometimes for the whole life span. It is believed that structural changes take place at the synaptic level in which more stable and permanent changes occur in neural connections in widespread areas of the brain. The structure called hippocampus is essential not only for learning new information, but also for the consolidation of information from short-term to long-term memory. If the hippocampus is damaged, new memories are unable to be stored in the long-term memory. It is also hypothesized that one of the principal functions of sleep is to improve consolidation of information.

Working memory is the cognitive functional system which actively keeps multiple pieces of transitory information in the brain, where they can be manipulated and used in the thinking process. It involves the execution of verbal and nonverbal tasks, such as reasoning and comprehension, and makes them available for further information-processing. We use the working memory constantly in daily life, helping us to perform efficiently and effectively in academic, professional and social settings. One of the most popular working memory enhancement programs is Cogmed, which is a home computer based platform. Its effectiveness has been researched extensively in many countries.

Memory loss (amnesia) is a deficit in memory caused by brain damage, disease, or psychological trauma. It can also be caused temporarily by the use of various chemical substances, such as therapeutic or illicit drugs. Depending on the extent of damage memory can be lost partially or wholly. There are two main types of memory loss:

Retrograde amnesia is the inability to retrieve information that was acquired before a particular date, usually the date of the causative event. Some people may lose only a short period of their memory, while others lose decades or lifetime of their memory.

Anterograde amnesia is the inability to transfer new information from the short-term store into the long-term store. In this type, the person cannot remember things which occur after the event for long periods of time, but long-term memories from before the event remain intact.

Many forms of amnesia recover without being treated. If recovery does not occur there are a few ways to cope with the memory loss, including cognitive therapy. Non-invasive brain stimulation methods are also effective in the recovery process.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is an intermediate stage between the expected cognitive decline in normal ageing and the more severe decline in dementia. These cognitive impairments are not significant enough to interfere with the daily activities. When memory loss is the predominant symptom it is usually considered as the early stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Overall, about 1 to 2 percent of older adults develop dementia every year. However, among those with MCI, studies suggest that 6 to 15 percent develop dementia every year.

There is no proven drug treatment for MCI. Cognitive training (exercising the mind and memory) has been suggested as useful for MCI and it is important to maintain a healthy diet, have regular physical exercise and maintain good general health. On the other hand, there is increasing evidence that non-invasive neuromodulation techniques, such as neurofeedback and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) enhance cognition in people with MCI.