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Short Term Memory - What It Really Is
The_Sun_Still_Rises
Posted: Tuesday, September 8, 2015 8:59 AM
Joined: 7/24/2015
Posts: 3020


People (in regards to dementia and Alzheimer's) often misunderstand what defects in Short Term Memory really means.

The mistake that people make, is that they think Short Term Memory means remembering what you ate for lunch, or someone's name. This is not what Short Term Memory is. Being unable to recall a person's name is a defect in Information Retrieval.

Short Term Memory is immediate memory...as in immediately immediate memory. It is temporary memory, and you need it for all kinds of tasks.

You can test this for yourself, to better understand it on a more intimate level, by having someone say a series of 10 numbers and you immediately repeat them back to the person. The way you store these numbers, or chunks of information, is your Short Term Memory.

You have to listen to the numbers; you have to recognize them for being what they are and retrieve your knowledge of them; you have to input the numbers into your Short Term Memory bank; then you have to say them back.

You can only store about 7 of those chunks, or 7 numbers, in your Short Term Memory and this is referred to as your Memory Span. Normal adult humans have a Short Term Memory Span of 6-7 information chunks.

People with dementia (or cognitive impairment) often have diminished Short Term Memory Span. Meaning that they cannot store as many information chunks as someone without cognitive impairment. So it is a defect in the ability to input and temporarily store the information, and not a defect in the ability to recall the information. Most people with cognitive impairment can recall any information chucks that they managed to store in their Short Term Memory. This is why they can recall and repeat some of the numbers on this test.

These are some examples of what decreased Short Term Memory Span looks like in our daily lives:

* Looking at the calendar, seeing that it says that you have an appointment at 2 PM, and looking away and not remembering what time the appointment was at. And having to look again, and again, and again at the calendar and just not being able to take that information in.

* When people talk to you, it is only being able to hold about the last 3 or 4 words of what they said. Each time the say a new word replaces the oldest previous word which seems to fall off and is lost. You tell us things, especially in long sentences, and we cannot hold enough of the words to make sense of the sentence. Much less input the information you were trying to share. Comments like, "I told you 3 times that we are leaving in 10 minutes, why can't you remember?" What we can take in is, "why can't you remember?" "I don't know."

* Not remembering the answer to a question we just asked you. We still need to know the answer, we just couldn't input it...so we invariably ask you again...and again, until eventually it gets inputted.

* Your doctor offers you four options for treatment and you either only remember the first one or the last one, but cannot decide because you cannot hang onto all of the options. It is not that you are not competent to decide, just that you cannot input the options to be able to work with them.

* Multitasking is almost, if not, impossible because you cannot retain the information tracks of the other tasks.

* Following more than 1 instruction at a time. For example, go the bathroom, put on your green shirt, and then come down to breakfast...probably only 1 of those instructions will get followed, the rest never could be inputted into the mind.

It is not that people with cognitive impairment of dementia don't want to do these things, they do. It is just that with a significantly reduced ability to input information into one's Short Term Memory, the ability to know to do these things is not there.

It is not that the information was there and the person simply cannot recall it, is that the information was never able to get in there in the first place.

Hope that helps.


Lisa428
Posted: Tuesday, September 8, 2015 9:43 PM
Joined: 12/5/2011
Posts: 795


Thanks for sharing.

Very interesting.

Peace and Hope,

Lisa


llee08032
Posted: Wednesday, September 9, 2015 6:37 AM
Joined: 5/20/2014
Posts: 4405


* Looking at the calendar, seeing that it says that you have an appointment at 2 PM, and looking away and not remembering what time the appointment was at. And having to look again, and again, and again at the calendar and just not being able to take that information in.

I am always mixing up those dates and times. Stopped at bank yesterday on way to work. Put the envelope on the passenger seat telling myself I will remember to put the envelope with the money into my purse when I get to WaWa. Drove right past WaWa!
Bathroom and laundry room doors are about 3 ft apart. I got up off the couch the other day to go to the bathroom and started heading for the laundry room! I caught myself but all I could think of was that scene in Still Alice. Reading, writing and comprehending posts is becoming more difficult. I hate that I don't read books anymore and have settled on watching TV. All I am aware of concerning reading is that I am just not motivated to read. I feel like I'm missing something. Always the feeling that I forgot something, lost something. And the constant anticipation of forgetting!

llee08032
Posted: Wednesday, September 9, 2015 6:42 AM
Joined: 5/20/2014
Posts: 4405


It's hard work having this disease! Having to save ourselves for the really big and important stuff we need to remember. Writing things down and creating more disk space. Now have problems reading what I wrote. Perhaps problem with visual memory.
alz+
Posted: Wednesday, September 9, 2015 7:24 AM
Joined: 9/12/2013
Posts: 3560


It's hard work having this disease! Having to save ourselves for the really big and important stuff we need to remember. Writing things down and creating more disk space. Now have problems reading what I wrote. Perhaps problem with visual memory.


***********

Looking at a man and thinking "what man? what husband?" oh if only I could really forget some stuff! Ha!

SUN_

I recall reading a very similar interpretation of short term memory and thinking, there is again, false beliefs about what it means to have dementia.

thanks for putting that together. makes sense. helps too when I understand these changes from physiological stand point. I now know my brain does not have its High Alert signals going anymore, that I do need people to step in and believe me and help me.

At same time, another part of brain that used to get all wound up to take action is fried and not very active.

well done. I super like the discussions and explanations, this is all original and very helpful to everyone. like we are all putting together a jig saw puzzle!


llee08032
Posted: Wednesday, September 9, 2015 8:55 PM
Joined: 5/20/2014
Posts: 4405


Looking at a man and thinking "what man? what husband?" oh if only I could really forget some stuff! Ha!

If only we had a choice in who and what we'd like to forget. Make a list, cross them off and cancel those memories!

The_Sun_Still_Rises
Posted: Tuesday, December 13, 2016 9:30 PM
Joined: 7/24/2015
Posts: 3020


bumping
alz+
Posted: Wednesday, December 14, 2016 9:53 AM
Joined: 9/12/2013
Posts: 3560


I have ZERO memory of this group of posts! ok, a year ago, but still it was all new and fresh!

In conversations when I can not keep up with the speed of people talking, or when I want to respond but the words come so slowly people talk over me...that irks me.

How about remembering  a phone number, or writing one down, and have to keep going back and forth back and forth!

My brain also remembers the details of the stuff I wish I would forget.

Thanks SUN and Llee for figuring things out. seems like really important info, wish researchers looking for cures would spend some time finding out what the condition feels like from inside!


The_Sun_Still_Rises
Posted: Wednesday, December 14, 2016 10:06 AM
Joined: 7/24/2015
Posts: 3020


I tried add my dent figuring this out for us.  Likely it will all be forgotten and a year from now, another bright person, will come and try figure this out again from scratch. 

I was searching for some my old writing...in order see the difference...and saw these, I thought many the new people would be interested it.  Yeah, I sort of had forgotten as well.  I still have it for my daily use, this knowledge...but I forgot I had shared it.  But I guess that just like me.  Funny, how I get know myself again this way.  Gotta love Alz for that.

<3


julielarson
Posted: Thursday, January 12, 2017 4:39 PM
Joined: 9/30/2015
Posts: 1155


Sun this is so enlightening because it puts it into context.. I can relate to this so much.
grandmalynda
Posted: Thursday, January 12, 2017 5:06 PM
Joined: 12/3/2016
Posts: 374


Sun, this valuable information.  The more we know the more we will be able to make adjustments if we can.  I get very frustrated with the short term memory loss.  But I am slowly learning to accept my limitations, and try to let those around me know what is going on.  But sometimes they listen and sometimes they don't.  I am trying to realize that they are responsible for their own actions and responses.  I can't control them and I am trying very hard to come to terms with this.

I am very grateful that you keep us so well informed.

(((HUGS)))

--Lynda