Memory and epilepsy:Part 2

In my previous article we looked at how our memory is affected by epilepsy. This is about how using memory aids, we can provide strategies to limit these problems.We all have problems with our memory, and there are other issues  that can affect us such as dementia or old age.

To start with, It is good to use practical memory systems such as post-it notes, calendars,diaries,or drug wallets.

Post it Notes: I am a great one for making lists, whether this be for shopping,things to do that day or week eg phone calls to make, emails to send, daily tasks we all have to do.I have seen some people’s office desks covered with notes, around their computer or office wall. I often underline them as well or write in different colored pens, as I am a great highlighter.

Calendars:There are two calendars in our house, but I have my own which I can underline,circle, write comments,as I tend to do.

Diaries:I always use one, although do need a larger professional one, rather than the moderate sized one I currently have. It is good for keeping  appointments,keeping track of what you need to do, and is also good method to keep track of your seizures.However It can get clotted up, especially if you have cancellations or other adjustments to make.

Medication wallets or trays: I started using this,as sometimes I couldn’t remember if I last took my last dosage, admittedly that has always happened from time to time over the years.I  now have a weekly tray with my dosages filled, by myself for the twice daily intakes for the week ahead. I just need to check when I last took my medication, in case I forget, and I am in the habit of  topping up my tray for the next 5 or 6 days, and take it with me for vacations, plus extra supplies, if I need them or in case I lose some.

Cell phones:I suspect everybody does this now, as I routinely update my calendar on my phone, often daily and then weekly, when events occur. Some people may also have calendars on their laptop. I get reminders also for appointments whenever they occur via email.

Other techniques: Mnemonics or memory techniques can be used to help memorize information.These take practice, so you need to work out what is suitable for you. This could be by using stories,image or rhyme as methods to retrieve factual  or other information.

Ever have the feeling you have the word or words ‘on the tip of your tongue’ , you could try what is known as ‘alphabetical’ searching by searching for a word that you are looking for by going through the alphabet. It can be a prompt way to retrieve the word you are looking for.However as an afterthought, ever noticed, when hours later, when asleep or relaxed the word you are looking for pops into your head!

Remembering someone’s name:This is the one I struggle with, whether short-term or long-term. Simply ask someone else to remind you of their name, helps in certain situations, in advance if possible, as I have done and write them down. When meeting someone for the first time, get them to repeat their name to check you heard correctly, and write it down later, if they have are no business cards. You can adapt a strategy of  picturing a visual  image that goes with the person’s name eg the person sitting on a bridge as their name is Mr Bridge, or rhymes similar to the name eg Joan for a moan, and physical features to remember a person name such as a lemon for Mr Lemon. This is similar to the Image-Name technique in which you invent a relationship between the name and the physical characteristics of the person.

Remembering where you put something: Try concentrating where you put something eg keys, or get into a standard routine, of where you put something down. I always leave my keys in the same place, in a small tray, or my extra medications are all together in the same place next to my bed. This I do to see what needs to be refilled, and they are easily located.I tried putting them away in a draw, but tended to forget about refills or how much I had left. My professional files are put in the same box, my medical notes, financial/pension files are in others.These can be easily retrieved.

Using sayings or rhymes: For information involving key words or Acronym are great to recall  information, as well as studying for exams. A 10 year old me , still remembers Never Eat Shredded Wheat, for  where :North.South,East ,West lies clockwise,or Richard Of York Gave battle In Vain, can remind you of the colors of the Rainbow:red,orange,yellow,green,blue,indigo,violet, or BRASS for how to shoot a rifle:Breath,Relax,Aim,Sight,Squeeze.

Use pictures or mind mapping: by drawing  a picture or diagram that represents what you are reading or studying, helps you to recall information. Mind maps are where you draw a map or diagram of information using keywords or phrases,this can be a helpful technique to learn.The Loci Method, is used to remember about 20 items, this is used to imagine placing items you want to remember, in specific locations in a room with which you are familiar.

Simple Repetition used correctly is an effective way to convert short-term memory to long-term memory, especially with other techniques such as with visualization or mind maps it can help.

I have come across a few other techniques that you can try: Link,Chain, or Story Method, or Actively Paying Attention.

The Link,Chain, or Story method:

This method is best for memorizing long lists eg remembering the presidents in order. Word manipulation could go like this:A man washes a ton(Washington) of clothes in a river.Suddenly the river goes dry, as the water is blocked by huge dams (Adams). A man asks his ‘deaf’ son(Jefferson) to take his clothes. Thus by creating an image that coincide with items on a list, the easier it will be to remember.

Actively Paying Attention:This is something  many people are guilty of. In order to use our memory to maximum capacity, we need to be conscious of every bit of information we receive. Have you ever forgotten a person’s name as soon as you shook their hand? Or directions as soon as you are given them? Or memorizing a cell phone number, or some instructions? These are common example of not paying attention.By paying more attention, and quickly converting to images, and review it a few times mentally, and it will be easier with practice.


Memory and epilepsy

This is a topic that has been in my thoughts, and I admit my concerns for a few months now. I have long noticed, or became more conscious of  my inability to remember a person’s name,and often forget them eventually.In recent months, I have now been doing general knowledge quiz books and using dictionaries, always enjoyed certain non fiction books, to keep my brain active.Information and facts are retrieved, forgotten, or may pop into my subconscious later.I have for a long time got into the habit of writing things down, on my calendar,my phone etc, which helps.

Memory is the brain’s ability to store information and find it later.This involves learning the information, storing it, then recalling it again. The recalling it is the difficult bit. However there are other factors that affect memory, such as:

  • Mood and concentration:confidence and happiness affects the way the brain works and increases your ability to concentrate and take in information.Anxiety or stress will make it more difficult at learning stage, and worrying to recall information will make it harder to recall the correct information.
  • Lack of sleep:Tiredness, lack of sleep or feeling unwell affect memory and concentration, not getting enough sleep can contribute to memory problems.
  • Age:As we get older, storing and retrieving information is more difficult process.
  • Surgery:Memory problems for those who have epilepsy, has been known, for those who have surgery in the temporal lobe.

Epilepsy as a brain activity occurs on a specific region of the brain, such as the medial temporal lobe. However such repeated epilepsy seizures can affect the brain tissues in the most important areas of the brain eg the Hippocampus, this is important to the processing of information and memory. If damage occurs on the left side of the brain, they will find it difficult to remember words-spoken or written. If damage is on the right side of the brain, visual memory is affected. If damage is found on the frontal lobes, it can lead to short-term memory loss, let’s not despair just yet.

Memory loss is either a short-term or long-term problem.Short term memory loss is common for those who experience Complex Partial Seizures or Tonic Clonic seizures just before and during a seizure, and there are people who experience disruptions regarding long-term loss.Long term memory comes in 4 ways:

  • Procedural memory-A memory for skills that can be carried out without consciously thinking eg riding your bike, swimming, tie your shoelace
  • Semantic memory-A memory for facts and knowledge eg high school and college classes
  • Episodic memory-memories from personal experiences such as weddings,vacations,conversations,childhood memories
  • Prospective memory-remembering to do things in the future eg appointments, birthday cards

Memory problems can happen due to the side affects of anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). Drowsiness and attention problems can affect short-term memory, and make it more difficult to learn and store new information.Always check with your doctor, if you have any concerns. I did such tests about 3 years ago on memory, during a stay in hospital.

My future articles, will be about getting into the habit of using memory aids, and methods to improve on this.