Formation and recall of memories involve complex neurological processes across multiple parts of the brain (Hassabis 2007; Kwon 2012). Amnesia, or memory loss, occurs when there is a problem with the way the brain stores or retrieves memories (Hardt 2009).
Brain damage, such as occurs in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, stroke, or traumatic brain injury, may lead to amnesia, but it can also be caused by traumatic psychological or emotional experiences (Hankey 1988; Sellal 2002; Addante 2012; Zeman 2010; Ally 2012; PubMed Health 2012; Mormino 2009). Memory loss may also arise as a consequence of alcohol or illegal drug use, and some prescription sedative medications such as benzodiazepines can cause amnesia (Jones 2000; PubMed Health 2012; Markowitsch 2013; Erickson 2003; Hirai 2001; Mormino 2009). For many patients amnesia resolves on its own; however, it can be permanent in some cases (Brandt 2006).
Although amnesia can be a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia, amnesia and dementia are different phenomena (Mohs 1988; Hirai 2001). Dementias are usually associated with more pronounced cognitive deficits that impair activities of daily living. In contrast, amnesia typically affects only memory and, in many cases, patients can function relatively well with some assistance. In addition, dementias typically worsen over time, but amnesia not caused by an underlying progressive pathology is often stable over time (Mohs 1988; Roger 2008; Gerstein 2013; Hirai 2001).
Unfortunately, pharmacological treatments that restore lost memories have yet to be developed. This is because understanding of the neurological framework that underlies memory is still largely incomplete. However, in some forms of amnesia, psychological therapy may help patients recall bits and pieces of lost information and better cope with their condition (Brandt 2006). This protocol will provide an overview of the neurological processes underlying memory and how alteration of neural signaling in the brain can lead to amnesia. Various possible causes of amnesia will be outlined, as will several novel therapeutic avenues currently being explored. A number of scientifically-studied natural interventions that may modulate memory storage and retrieval will also be presented. In addition, readers are encouraged to review the Age-Related Cognitive Decline protocol, which discusses maintenance of overall brain health.