– Memory

Memory problems are, for many, the major area of difficulty. The problem lies with short-term or working memory. Several structures within the brain are involved in learning and remembering. Damage to any of these can produce memory impairment. Similarly, the memory system is very complex. There are many different aspects that can be affected by damage to different parts of the brain. Examples include:

– Verbal memory (names, words, etc.)
– Visual memory (faces, pictures, routes, etc.)
– Prospective memory (remembering to do something in the future)

Commonly-reported difficulties include:
– Remembering what has been said
– Remembering names
– Getting details mixed up
– Following the storyline/plot of a television programme
– Keeping track of a conversation
– Remembering where things have been put

To understand memory impairment and ways of addressing it, it may help to understand the way in which normal memory works. Learning and remembering involves three stages:
1. Absorbing information
2. Storing information
3. Retrieving information

Brain injury can cause a breakdown in any of these stages.

1. Absorbing information
Before we can remember anything, we first have to pay attention to what we hear, read or see – and then absorb the information.

This process can be problematic following brain injury because of the attention and information-processing issues previously discussed.

Problems can occur if too much information is offered at once or if the information being given is too complicated.

2. Storing information

Once we have attended to the information, it has to be stored either for immediate use or recall later.

Non-brain-injured people who do not make a concerted effort to remember new information may forget it.

The same is true for those with brain injury, but it requires strategic thought to ensure information is recalled.

3. Retrieving information

Once stored, we have to be able to access information as and when needed.

This can be problematic for all of us at times but more so for some people with memory impairment.

Many of us have had the “tip of the tongue” experience or have needed prompting before recalling something.

An exaggerated version of this situation is true for people with memory impairment.