Forgetfulness; Amnesia; Impaired memory; Loss of memory; Amnestic syndrome
Memory loss (amnesia) is unusual forgetfulness. It may refer to not being able to remember new events, not being able to recall one or more memories of the past, or both.
The cause determines whether amnesia comes on slowly or suddenly, and whether it is temporary or permanent.
Normal aging may lead to trouble learning new material or requiring a longer time to remember learned material. However, it does not lead to dramatic memory loss unless diseases are involved.
Memory loss can be seen with impaired concentration, such as with depression. It can be hard to tell the difference.
There are many areas of the brain that help you create and retrieve memories. Damage or malfunction of any of these areas can lead to memory loss.
Memory loss due to problems with specific brain areas may be different. It may involve only memory of recent or new events, passed or remote events, or both. the amnesia may be only for specific events or for all events. The problem may involve learning new information or forming new memories.
Mental or thinking abilities may still be present or may have been lost. Filling in the details with imagined events (confabulation), and disorientation to time and place may occur.
Memory loss may be for words and thoughts only, or for motor memory (the body can no longer perform specific actions). Memory loss may also be partial, meaning failing to remember only a selected group of items.
Memory loss may be short-term (called transient).
Causes of memory loss include:
Kirshner HS. Approaches to intellectual and memory impairments. In: Gradley WG, Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, eds. Neurology in Clinical Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Butterworth-Heinemann; 2008:chap 6.
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