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The total or partial loss of memory is medically referred to as amnesia. Aging is often linked to the inability to remember events from recent or remote past. As we age, some of us might have trouble recalling small details and events; however, sudden or dramatic loss of memory is generally associated with certain medical conditions. Amnesia could be temporary or permanent. If one is unable to recall the events that occurred very recently, he/she is diagnosed with short-term memory loss. Long-term memories are intended for storage of information for a long period of time. Some of these are those that we consciously remember, while there are others that we unconsciously remember. It comprises data that has a great impact on our ability to perceive things. It is basically due to their content or meaningful association, that these memories are stored for a longer duration. Though these memories might start fading with time, there could be other factors that could affect a person’s ability to recall such memories. The symptoms of long-term memory loss include the inability to remember necessary things, such as word meanings and semantics or important dates. They might find it hard to perform routine tasks that they were very much familiar with.

Contributing Factors

Long term memory comprises a large amount of information that has been stored for a significantly long time period. There are some events that remain alive in our memory for almost our entire lives. These memories are placed in the long term memory storage due to their significance or through rehearsal. One’s inability to recall such memories might be due to the following:

The mental activity of recalling what you have learned or experienced is attributed to a complex process. Various parts of the brain are involved in this process. Cerebral cortex, amygdala, and hippocampus are some of the areas that are involved. The communication between the neurons also plays a vital role in the retention of memory. At times, the working of the brain might get affected due to the normal process of aging. The neurotransmitters and their receptors might not be able to perform their tasks due to the loss of neurons. As a result, the brain might not be able to retain or retrieve information properly. The deterioration of the brain cells could be responsible for the difficulty one might experience in recalling past events.

Traumatic Brain Injury
It is the brain where the process of acquisition, consolidation, and retrieval of information takes place. If any part of the brain is damaged due to an injury, one might develop amnesia. While short-term amnesia might occur to a mild concussion, however, a person who sustains a serious brain injury might get affected by permanent amnesia.

Medical Conditions
Neurodegenerative diseases are diseases associated with the progressive loss of structure, function, or even death of neurons. Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease are some of the conditions that could be responsible for memory loss. The onset of such a medical condition might be marked by short-term amnesia, but it could turn into long-term amnesia, as the disease progresses. Besides neurodegenerative diseases, even brain infection, brain tumor, or epilepsy could cause this condition. Prolonged stress could also be a contributing factor.

Substance Abuse
Drug abuse or alcoholism could also have an adverse impact on one’s mental health. Substance abuse is one of the common causes of amnesia in young adults. The use of illicit drugs can impair the normal functioning of the neurotransmitters. Chronic alcohol abuse could give rise to a type of dementia known as Wernickle-Korsakoff’s syndrome. This could cause impairment of one’s cognitive skills and lead to amnesia. The prolonged use of certain prescription drugs might also be associated with memory-related problems. Some studies suggest that the use of statins could cause memory-related problems.

Medical assistance must be sought by anyone affected by long-term memory loss. Once the underlying cause is identified, doctors usually recommend drug therapy. One can also perform certain exercises to improve one’s memory. The affected individual should also follow a healthy diet and get adequate sleep.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.