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Understanding Memory Lapses

Aug 17, 2007
Most people think that memory lapses are for the hopelessly disorganized. This is because some have systems. For instance, the keys go into the key jar.

The point is, compulsive list makers never come home from the supermarket without the items they intend to buy. Imagine their annoyance when eventually they take three trips between two places before they remember why they went from one place to another anyway!

A lot of us, faced with these glitches, worry that Alzheimer's is just around the corner. Experts are reassuring us that memory lapses are part of the normal wear and tear that goes along with middle age.

No one is exactly sure why memory goes downhill. It may be that we lose brain cells as we age or the remaining cells do not communicate with one another as effectively. But, the result is well known: mental gaffes cause embarrassment and inconvenience.

For example, Linda, 35, went to her son's school with a big cake thinking it was Family Day. As it turned out, the schedule of the Family Day is set on the next day. Her son was surprised to see her and overjoyed when she brought out his favorite chocolate cake. Of course, she had to bring the same thing the next day, this time for real.

Mental Congestion
Attention is the gateway to retention. Multitasking makes it hard to commit things to memory in the first place. If the information does not get in to begin with, forget trying to save it and access it later. If multiple activities crowd your day, do not rely on your recall skills. Make lists, take notes, and ask others to do the same.

Interestingly, people tend to blame age, rather the busy nature of their work for their slips.

Take the common lapse of forgetting someone's name. It happens to everybody, young and old. Names are difficult to handle because they are abstract. The person's face and his name are not logical ideas for the brain to link together. According to neurologist Barry Gorden, M.D., Ph.D., the older we get, the more data we have to sort through in our brains. Some mental lapses are nothing but congestion.

Also, we blank on names because we know too many of them. Anxiety makes it worse by creating more traffic. That is why the name often pops into our minds later when the mental traffic has died down.

Types Of Memory
There are three kinds of memory, with each one responding differently to the aging process.

Episodic memory is for recalling the name of a restaurant or a movie plot from last week. It starts to decline in our early forties.

Semantic memory is the type that gives us the ability to collect and retain new facts and figures. It holds up pretty well, which is why we know what a blog is but forget your dentist's address.

Procedural memory is for tasks we do automatically, such as playing the piano or driving a car. This is fairly resilient. So, even if we can't think of our friend's phone number, we can press the right keys on the phone's pad.

Is Memory Lapse An Illness?
Certain medical problems can interfere with our ability to recall. These may include depression, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, a concussion, diabetes, and side effects from some drugs. While these can affect how we recall things, it does not mean that we can treat memory lapses the same way we treat illnesses. Improving our diet and lifestyle can help us get back on track.

Let us manage our stress. Try whatever works for us is yoga, gardening, walking, etc. Not only does tension distract you, making it hard to learn and remember things, but it also takes a direct toll on the brain.

Be aware of the reasons for such memory lapses and we will be more understanding and tolerant of our selves.
About the Author
Some people will do anything to make your life miserable. You can find out how to finally stop difficult people from ruining your life by dominating, winning, and changing their hearts at the authors website at: http://www.dealing-with-difficult-people.com
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