Memory is the ability to retain and retrieve information. At will, would be great. Yet, so many of us tend to forget things, even as children. Perhaps a lack of self-awareness makes this insignificant in our youth.
As we age, however, forgetting can cause serious concern and anxiety. So what is normal, and when should you worry?
Without making this too complex, for memories to form, your brain goes through a series of steps. It takes signals—touch, sound, smell, and sound—and encodes them into something the brain can recognise.
It then consolidates the memories and converts them into short-term, working, and long-term memories. It is these memories that are then retrieved, the absence of which causes you anxiety.
So while we may forget things as children, the reasons are different. In our childhood, the reason could be that the brain has yet to learn how to consolidate memory. As we age, the reasons change.
In general, our brain shrinks as we age. In particular, the three regions of the brain involved in memory—the hippocampus, the amygdala, and the basal ganglia—also shrink.
Our neural connections are affected, which in turn affects our ability to send information packets, affecting recollection.
So, in a nutshell, age does have a bearing on your memory. How much is normal?
One way to find out is to take a test.
You could undergo a mini-mental state examination. It accesses memory, the orientation of time and place, language, etc.
You could do the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, which assesses memory, attention, language, and visual and spatial memory.
You could also take the Wechsler Memory Scale test, which is a comprehensive test of all types of memory. It tests immediate, delayed, and recall, visual, auditory, and the ability to learn new information.
Depending on what you find, you could consider looking at nutrition, sleep, exercise, and mental and physical games, all of which have a bearing on the rate at which our memory fails us.
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