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Memory Loss Causes

Chandramita Bora Apr 16, 2019
Mild memory problems are quite common among a large section of the population today. The causes of memory loss can range from nutritional deficiency or stress and anxiety to some serious conditions, like, tumors and neurodegenerative diseases. Read on to know more..
Memory can be termed as the ability to store and recall information. The whole process of storing, processing and recalling information is a complex mechanism which can be divided into three stages, namely, encoding, storage and retrieval.
Everyday we encounter a number of sensory stimuli or information, which are received and processed by the human brain to store them. This stage is called encoding, followed by the second stage, i.e. storage, which involves retaining the processed information. The final stage of memory is the act of recalling this stored information, known as retrieval.
The entire process of storing, processing and recalling information is mainly regulated by our brain, that can be divided into three main parts, namely forebrain, midbrain and hindbrain. The largest part of the brain is cerebrum, which is the center of memory, intelligence, emotion, personality and ability to feel.
Different parts of the brain are concerned with regulating specific functions as well as receiving, processing and storing information or sensory impulses received from the sensory organs. 
Memory can be classified into 2 forms, short-term memory and long-term memory. Short term memory enables one to recall information only for a short duration, while long-term memory can store a large amount of information for a significantly long time period, sometimes for the entire lifetime. But this ability of the brain can be impaired by various factors.

What Causes Memory Loss?

The natural process of aging involves a gradual and slow deterioration of the ability of the brain to learn and store new information due to loss of brain cells. But, it does not bring about a significant loss of memory during a short interval.
The process of aging usually causes loss of short-term memory or the ability to recall events that have occurred recently as well as to learn new things. But, certain factors, like, stress, alcohol or drug abuse and some medical conditions can also bring about considerable loss of memory that can interfere with day-to-day activities.


Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or fatigue. This indicates that the brain or human mind is subject to a lot of work, more than it can handle. So, stress basically involves overworking of the brain, which results in mental fatigue. In order to overcome this situation, the brain needs to rest and slow down.
Stress affects memory and learning ability of an individual. This is the reason why we fail to recall or learn new things when we are mentally stressed. To prevent stress related loss of memory and learning ability, one has to address the factors that increase stress and anxiety and deal with them.

Depression and Anxiety

Like stress, depression and anxiety too have a negative impact on memory. They not only impair memory but can also affect physical and mental well-being of an individual.

Head Injury

As our brain is the main site for storing, processing and recalling information, any physical injury to this part can cause mild to major loss of memory. The extent to which head injury can affect memory depends on the severity of damage to the brain. Severe injury to the head can even result in permanent loss of memory.


Dementia is a disorder associated with cognitive ability and it is more commonly found in older population but this does not mean that it cannot happen to young adults. Apart from memory, dementia can affect other cognitive abilities, like, attention, problem solving ability and language.
The personality of the sufferer may change significantly and he or she may not be able to carry out even simple day-to-day activities at the later stages of dementia. However, some cases of dementia are reversible with proper treatment.

Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Excessive consumption of alcohol and drug addiction can adversely affect both mental and physical well-being of individuals. Drug and alcohol abuse are often major contributory factors for a number of problems related to mental health.
They can impair normal functioning of the nervous system, which in the long run may result in memory loss. In the short run, drug and alcohol abuse causes a state of intoxication which is associated with temporary loss of memory.

Brain Tumors

Brain tumors can impair the functioning of a particular part of the brain where they develop. So, if a tumor develops in the part of the brain which is associated with memory, then it can affect memory to a great extent.
Tumors can be both benign and malignant. The benign tumors remain confined to the particular area of origination and do not pervade other places, while the malignant ones can spread rapidly, pervading the surrounding healthy tissues.

Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's disease is a common type of dementia or degenerative diseases. The most common symptom of this condition is loss of memory and cognitive abilities. Initially, the sufferer develops forgetfulness about recent events but their long-term memory remain intact. However, gradually over a period of time, the disease also affects their long-term memory.

Other Causes

Some other causes of memory loss are epilepsy, strokes, infections and neurodegenerative diseases. Multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease are noteworthy neurodegenerative diseases that affect human memory.
Epilepsy seizures generally cause a temporary loss of memory, while the extent of damage caused by stokes depends on its severity. Infection of the brain, as happens in case of encephalitis and meningitis, can cause inflammation of the brain tissues and the sufferer may experience memory loss.
Memory loss can also happen in case of infections such as tuberculosis, HIV, herpes, syphilis, etc. which affects the core of the brain and causes serious problems. Thyroid dysfunction can also contribute to this situation. However, in many instances, mild forgetfulness can be a side effect of some medications too.
It is essential to identify the exact short-term memory loss causes, so that they can be addressed properly to prevent permanent loss of memory. Apart from the mentioned diseases and disorders, memory can get impaired temporarily due to lack of proper nutrition or nourishment.
Like other organs, the brain also needs all the vital nutrients including vitamins, especially vitamin B and C to perform its activities smoothly. Therefore, eating a healthy and balanced diet can play a crucial role in improving memory.
Also important is to drink plenty of water to flush out the toxins from the body, regular exercise and to reduce or avoid consumption of alcohol and smoking. As far as stress is concerned, one can take the help of stress relief techniques, like, yoga and meditation that can ensure overall mental and physical well-being.