Absence of Evidence Is Not Evidence of Absence- Memory Disorders of the Modern Age

24 08 2012

The typical Memory Disorder comes in the form of Alzheimer’s Disease for the elderly, or banging your head hard enough for the accident-prone folk of the world. However, some new types of memory disorders are appearing recently. One man was unable to receive help from most doctors, because the disorder was unlike one that they encountered before. 

The man, who chooses to remain anonymous, had been experiencing very strange symptoms. Usually with Alzheimer’s, one looses pieces of information slowly over a period of time. With concussions, one usually only loses the memory attached to a time frame on or near the incident. In this patient’s case, every piece of information he had gathered were vague memories that laid just outside of reach. He attributed it to an advanced case of déjà vu, but his sense of recognition seemed more advanced than that. It was as if he was reliving all of the past events, recognizing every new moment as an old one. The doctors were baffled, and had no idea how to treat him, until a younger and willing doctor came into the picture.

The young doctor’s name is Chris Moulin. Upon meeting the patient, Moulin noted that he was extremely friendly and sharp as a tack with the exception of any recent memories. He also noted that the patient would often fabricate details to fill in the missing pieces of his memory, making a true diagnosis slightly more challenging. 

Memory disorders are very fascinating to think about, because how exactly is it that our minds retain information so well? Do we understand our own thought processes well enough that we can find the exact step where the process gets halted and call it a memory disorder? It makes you think how exactly do you know when something is familiar? How do we tell memory from dreams? When we search our memories, how do we truly know we aren’t simply making it all up as we go along?

Medical associations have come up with a few simple ways to test and improve memory. One is to check our memories against sources such as books and video. Studies suggest that when we call up memories such as flashbacks or specific moments, our brains replay a compressed version of that memory, with details always subject to change. Some events get emphasized while some get dropped completely. 

Even stranger is the way that modern science is affecting research on this topic. In labs all over the world, scientists are discovering different ways to turn memories on and off. They even figured out how to transfer a recognition response from one brain to the other, what they are now calling “hybrid memories.” They define it as neural activity patterns that encode familiarity with new places and experiences. 

So are they saying that all of our memories are a hoax and that nothing we remember is actually real? No, not at all. We do need to consider that it may not always be the major memory glitch that causes the problem. Traumatic experiences or psychotherapy can distort memories just enough to inspire a false accusation. Every year, inaccurate eyewitness testimony continues to send innocent people to prison. 

So what’s the best thing to do? Take everything with a grain of salt, remain skeptical, and remember that absence of evidence is NOT evidence of absence. If you remember the sights, sounds, and smells, chances are you’ve experienced that memory. You might not remember a particular detail, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.

We here at Advantec are always keeping up with medical research that directly correlates to the industries that our clients work in. Some of our major clients are in the Personal Care, Assisted Care, Mental Health, and Group Home Industries. We are proud to support them and help their businesses run as planned, so more time can be spent with their clients and less time in the office!

If you want to test your own memory, go to the Selective Attention Test. It is a one minute video requiring no sound that will quickly challenge your memory!

For more information about Memory Disorders, see UCSF’s link! To learn more about Advantec’s software for Group Homes, Mental Health, Personal Care Services, and Assisted Care Services, visit Advantec’s Web Page!

 

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