Conclusions

This chapter has emphasized that memory should be regarded as a multifunctional cognitive system that can be understood in a number of ways. We can consider the length of time information is stored, the type of information being stored, the stages involved in remembering, whether information is recalled or recognized, or whether memories date from before or after neurological insult.

The chapter has described a number of conditions that can give rise to organic memory impairment, the most common of which are degenerative conditions, Korsakoff' syndrome, traumatic head injury, temporal lobe surgery, encephalitis, anoxic brain damage, and cerebral tumours.

Most memory-impaired people have difficulty in learning and remembering new information; they have a normal or nearly normal immediate memory span but have problems remembering after a delay or distraction, and they usually have a period of retrograde amnesia that may range from minutes to decades. Less common memory disorders include semantic memory impairment and immediate verbal or visuospatial deficits.

Although restoration of memory functioning is unlikely to occur in the majority of people whose memory impairments follow neurological insult, there is, nevertheless, much that can be done to reduce the impact of disabling and handicapping memory problems and foster understanding of the issues involved. These include environmental modifications that can enable very severely impaired people to cope in their daily lives despite the lack of adequate memory functioning, the employment of errorless learning principles to improve the learning ability of memory-impaired people, teaching how to use external memory aids to help compensate for memory difficulties, and dealing with emotional sequelae such as anxiety and depression, which are often associated with organic memory impairment.

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