Description, Causes and Risk Factors:
Amnesia in reference to events occurring after the trauma or disease that caused the condition.
Anterograde amnesia is a selective memory deficit, resulting from brain injury, in which the individual is severely impaired in learning new information. Memories for events that occurred before the injury may be largely spared, but events that occurred since the injury may be lost. In Practice, this means that an individual with amnesia may have good memory for childhood and for the years before the injury, but may remember little or nothing from the years since. Short-term memory is generally spared, which means that the individual may be able to carry on a conversation; but as soon as he is distracted, the memory of the conversation fades.
It is now becoming apparent that while anterograde amnesia devastates memory for facts or events, it may spare memory for skills or habits. Thus, an individual with amnesia can be taught a new skill, such as how to play a game or how to write backwards. The next day, the amnesic individual will claim to have no memory of the prior session, but when asked to try executing the skill, can often perform quite well - indicating that some memories have been formed. It is an important area of Current research to document exactly which kinds of memory can be formed in amnesia, and how this may be used to help rehabilitate amnesic individuals.
Anterograde amnesia can occur following damage to at least three distinct brain areas. The first, and most well studied, is the hippocampus and associated areas in the medial temporal lobes of the brain. The hippocampus seems to act as a "gateway" through which new fact information must pass before being permanently stored in memory. If it is damaged, no new information can enter memory - although older information which has already passed through the gateway may be safe. Damage to the hippocampus (and medial temporal lobes) can occur following stroke or aneurysm to one of the arteries which supplies blood to these areas, as well as following epilepsy, encephalitis, hypoxia, carbon monoxide poisoning, near-drowning or near-suffocation, and the earliest stages of Alzheimer's disease. Some damage to the hippocampus also occurs in the course of normal aging.
Anterograde amnesia can also occur following damage to the basal forebrain, a group of structures which produce acetylcholine, a chemical which helps cells in the brain store new information during learning. The basal forebrain can be damaged by aneurysm of the anterior communicating artery, which supplies blood to the basal forebrain.
Finally, anterograde amnesia can sometimes occur following damage to the diencephalon - a set of structures deep in the brain including the medial thalamic nuclei. Currently, there is no good understanding of why damage to these brain areas should sometimes result in a selective memory deficit such as amnesia.
Generally, an individual experiencing anterograde amnesia may have a significant amount of childhood memories intact, but will lose everything prior to the brain injury occurring. Some skills and habits seem to be spared, but all short-term memory tends to be lost.
Initially, the Neuro professional will need to rule out any other possible causes of memory loss, including dementia, Alzheimer's disease, depression, or a brain tumor. He/she will require a detailed medical history - this may be difficult if the patient does not remember things, so family members or Caregivers may also have to be present.
In order to find out whether there is any physical damage or brain abnormality, the following tests are needed,
A CT (computerized tomography) scan - a medical imaging method that employs tomography. Tomography is the process of generating a two-dimensional image of a slice or section through a 3-dimensional object (a tomogram). The medical device (the machine) is called a CTG scanner; it is a large machine and uses X-rays. A CT scan is exceptionally good at detecting bleeding in the brain (especially from injury).
An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan - a machine uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of any part of the body; in this case, the brain. An MRI scan is better than a CT scan at detecting a tumor in the brain.
An EEG (electroencephalogram) - this is a tool which provides an image of the brain while the patient is performing a cognitive task - a task that requires thinking. It allows the doctor to detect the location and magnitude of brain activity involved in several types of cognitive functions. Images are created by using electrodes to monitor the amount of electrical activity at different points on the patient's scalp.
Blood tests may also reveal the presence of any infection, or nutritional deficiencies.
The aim of anterograde amnesia treatment often involves techniques and strategies to help compensate for the memory problem. Family support is crucial in helping a patient with anterograde amnesia get better. Psychologists and psychiatrists say that reality orientation aids may help to nudge patients back into their environment if they are surrounded with familiar objects, photographs, smells, and sounds (music). Patients who cannot remember people's names or faces can store a long list of photographs of faces and check them whenever they wish. There are currently no drugs for the restoration of memory for patients with retrograde amnesia.
NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.
DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.
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