What Is Amnesia?

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Amnesia – the phenomenon of forgetting something previously known – has several different classifications. This forgetting may be due to a multitude of causes, and these different causes and the conditions in which they occur help define the classification of amnesias used today. 5 main classifications are anterograde, retrograde, infantile, transient global, and functional amnesia. Each will be defined and briefly discussed.
Anterograde amnesia is “a severe loss of the ability to form new episodic and semantic memories” (Gluck, Mercado, Myers, 2014). It is the most noticeable amnesia present in patient H.M. Hippocampal region damage results in difficulty learning new information – especially episodic learning of events and facts (Gluck, Mercado,
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Immediate memory is a subset of working memory, and is also called the “mental scratchpad” (class notes). These abilities continue to mature throughout adolescence – when it is at its peak – and early adulthood but begin to decline as adults get older (Gluck, Mercado, Myers, 2014). Age-related improvement in working memory reflects, in part, exposure to and familiarity with what is being remembered; the more familiar an individual is with presented material, the more efficient their processing of the information (Gluck, Mercado, Myers, 2014). As adults get older, their processing speed declines, which may be evidenced by comparing average digit-span scores of children with older adults (7 vs 6, respectively) (Gluck, Mercado, Myers, 2014). It is not well known why working memory is the first to begin declining, but one theory states older adults may be more susceptible to their previously stored information interfering with what is being presented to enter the working memory, an effect known as proactive interference (Gluck, Mercado, Myers, …show more content…
It was once believed that humans were born with a fixed amount of neurons, and this number declined as aging progressed; however, recent studies have shown neurogenesis – production of new neurons – actually does occur (Gluck, Mercado, Myers, 2014). While neurogenesis has been observed, the role of the new neurons in the adult brain is not yet known, as “the vast majority of newly born neurons appear to die off within a few weeks after formation” (Gould & Gross, 2000, cited by Gluck, Mercado, Myers, 2014). It has been hypothesized that these new neurons may be created to replace old ones, or perhaps are created to house new memories and skills, but these hypotheses are far from being proven (Gluck, Mercado, Myers, 2014). Brain plasticity improving games and computer programs abound, yet none of them have been proven to stop the elderly memory decline, or bring back memory capabilities lost (Faille, 2006). Much more research is needed in this area before definitive ways to biologically improve memory are

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