Storing a lifetime of memories and knowledge is it any wonder that our brains, which are complex systems of neurons and cells, are affected by epilepsy and associated seizures? As one of the most common side effects of Epilepsy, memory loss affects thousands of individuals every year.
With 87 people diagnosed with this neurological condition every day in the UK it is important to understand just exactly how our brains work, and how those who have epilepsy might experience memory difficulties. Following on from our previous blog discussing how Epilepsy can Affect Your Body, we thought we?d discuss one of the most common side effects of epilepsy.
The Brain: A Complex System
As a neurological condition, Epilepsy affects the electrical signals in your brain which ultimately results in a seizure. It is during these seizures that memory issues occur. The brain needs to continuously self-monitor but is often disrupted during a seizure therefore causing varying issues with an individual?s memory. Memories before a seizure may also be lost as they haven?t been fully incorporated into your memory system. A loss of consciousness during a seizure can also interfere with normal brain processes which disrupts the encoding and storage of information.
Generalised seizures will affect all of the brain whereas focal seizures might only affect one area. The way a seizure will affect your memory will depend on the type of seizure you have and where in your brain it occurs. Here comes the technical bit? The Brain has two hemispheres which are separated into 4 sections each; the Occipital, Parietal, Temporal, and Frontal Lobes. Each of these sections are responsible for various brain functions such as your memory:
- Issues with the Temporal or Frontal lobes are the most common reason for memory issues.
- Left Temporal Lobe is responsible for your verbal memories such as names and facts. If you find yourself forgetting words or getting stuck mid-sentence your left temporal lobe has likely been affected.
- Right Temporal Lobe ? This is where you?ll find all your visual memories such as remembering a person?s face or finding your way around a place
- Frontal Lobe is your prospective memory. Seizures in this area cause problems remembering to do things in the future
It is very likely, and equally common, for individuals with epilepsy to experience memory problems immediately after a seizure (post-ictal). This usually goes away once they have recovered, although the length of time for memory to return is variable from person to person.
Memory Enhancing Strategies
Whilst there isn?t currently a direct solution to associated memory difficulties there are various methods which can be applied to help with day to day life.
- Following a set routine allows you to get used to what each day entails. This essentially reduces the demands which are placed on your memory.
- Adapting your surroundings means that there is less need to rely on your memory. Leave a notepad next to the telephone, have designated places for your glasses or keys, or label cupboards for example.
- You may also want to think about using external memory aids which can allow you to keep track of appointments, dates and important pieces of information. This could include tape recorders or Dictaphones, electronic pagers, memory books, alarms, or pill reminder boxes for medication.
If you think that you are having difficulties with your memory as a result of epilepsy, or even associated medication, the NHS can provide assessments aimed to get an accurate idea of how well your memory is functioning. Usually conducted by a neuropsychologist, who can suggest a way to manage any memory issues, you can enquire and arrange an appointment with your GP or specialist.
The process is relatively straightforward and will involve looking at the processes the brain carries out, focusing on memory. This will include looking at your ability to remember pictures, stories, and numbers allowing the psychologist to determine where in the brain issues stem from (visual or verbal memory).
More Help and Advice
If you?re currently experiencing seizures, or care for someone who is, you could benefit from a range of epilepsy support monitors. All of our alarms and monitors are designed to provide peace of mind and increased independence for both individuals and their carers.
For more advice and information give our fantastic team a call on 01530 231 484 or 0845 217 9952