The human being is made of memories. What we are is nothing more than what we are able to retain and integrate, the experiences that have been lived in the past and that have defined us. This is why memory is such an important and valuable cognitive function.
Certain circumstances in life, from the uncontrollable passage of time to the appearance of diseases or the onset of accidents of all kinds, can compromise the way it is expressed temporarily or permanently.
In this article, we will discuss the phenomenon of memory psychopathologiesIn other words, the way in which it can be modified (both in its ability to retrieve information and in any other of its properties).
We will also reserve space for other mnemonic phenomena which may occur in the general population, and which do not suggest any underlying disorder.
There are many diseases and conditions that can affect how memory works, such as it is. a dimension widely distributed in the brain parenchyma. In this article, we will explore the different forms of amnesia and abnormalities in memory or recognition, that is, psychopathologies of memory.
The term “amnesia”, of Greek origin (and which could be translated as “forgetfulness”), subsumes a large group of memory impairments; heterogeneous in terms of origin, prognosis and clinical expression. We will then delve into each of them.
1.1. retrograde amnesia
Perhaps the most well-known memory problem is retrograde amnesia. It is described as a specific difficulty in evoking past events, but keeping the ability to create new memories unchanged.
It mainly affects episodic information, or what is the same, actual facts (while retaining semantics, procedure, etc.). This is usually one of the many consequences of traumatic brain injury or dementia that affects large areas of the nervous system.
1.2. anterograde amnesia
Anterograde amnesia is a compromise of memory characterized by difficulty or inability to generate new memories from a specific time. So what is changed is consolidation, or the process of moving information from the short-term warehouse to the long-term warehouse (where it is held for longer). The memory of the past remains intact.
Brain damage in the structures of the hippocampus has been systematically associated with this type of problem, as well as drug or drug abuse (alcohol, benzodiazepines, etc.).
1.3. Transient global amnesia
These are acute episodes in which the victim expresses this problem difficulty remembering events beyond the last that happened in your life; although perception, attention and other cognitive processes are maintained at their basal level of functioning.
Access to more distant memories is often also affected; but not the name, identity, provenance or other basic information and consolidated in deep layers of self-definition (as well as the capacity to carry out actions over which one had domination).
The person can be affected emotionally because they are aware of the deficit that catches them. Perseverance in actions and in asking questions of those around them is particularly suggestive of this problem, as the answer is forgotten almost immediately. The episode usually resolves within a few hours (less than 24 hours) and the underlying cause remains largely unknown.
1.4. Lacunar amnesia
Lacunar amnesia described inability to access information about specific events or time periods, With very precise temporal coordinates. The person could remember everything that had happened before and after the events, but never what had happened during them. It is associated with occasional lax attention level or altered states of consciousness (such as coma), but is also common in stroke and trauma.
1.5. Post-traumatic amnesia
Post-traumatic amnesia has an obvious etiology: a blow to the head. Although it can manifest itself in various ways, and have a clinical presentation similar to that described in the antegrade / retrograde, it has the particularity of being a reliable indicator of the severity of the trauma suffered. In mild cases it can last a few minutes, while in severe cases (more than a day) it can become permanent.
1.6. functional amnesia
Functional amnesia describes any impairment of memory for which he cannot be affiliated with the organic cause after doing all kinds of explorations, Including neuroimaging tests. On the other hand, a thorough assessment of the circumstances in which it takes place allows it to be associated with very emotionally charged events, which would be erected as its most likely cause. One of the most common cases is post-traumatic stress disorder, although it can also be seen in dissociative disorders (from flight to dissociative identity).
1.7. infantile amnesia
Infantile amnesia is that which occurs naturally during childhood, due to incomplete neurological development. Poor maturation of the hippocampus is involved in the phenomenon, Which prevents the formation of declarative memories.
Despite this circumstance, the early development of the amygdala makes it easier to articulate an emotional imprint by these facts, although in adulthood they cannot be described in exact words. It is for this reason that although we may not be able to remember what happened during the first few years, it can affect us on an emotional level.
2. Record the anomalies
Record abnormalities are frequent in the general population, although some of them preferentially manifest themselves under the influence of the consumption of certain substances or of a pathology of the central nervous system. In the following lines, we’ll explore what they are and what they may owe.
2.1. Incomplete personal memory
This phenomenon occurs when we coincide with a person with whom we have done this in the past, and although we are aware of such a nuance, we can not identify from which we know it (Or or). In this case, a memory occurs, although weakened and incomplete, because some information is not available. It is a common experience which is associated with the absence of contextual keys facilitating the process, that is to say with the fact of finding the person in an unusual space (different from the one in which we are usually located). .
2.2. Feeling of knowing
It is a feeling (close to certainty) that we are aware of a particular event, Or on a term, although we ultimately failed in trying to prove them. This happens mostly with words or concepts, which although they are familiar when we read or hear about them, we cannot evoke their exact meaning. The result is an inaccurate recognition, motivated by the morphological kinship of two terms: one truly known and the other believed to be known.
2.3. Tip of the tongue
The tip of the tongue phenomenon (also known as the top of the tongue or just ANYTHING) describes the very uncomfortable feeling that occurs being unable to pronounce a specific word, despite knowing it and wanting to serve it in a conversation. This phenomenon is more common in terms of rare use, although it also occurs in most everyday life, and tends to worsen under conditions of fatigue or stress. It can also be more common over the years.
Often the person comes to remember certain properties of the word she intends to use, such as the beginning or the end, and tries to perform a subvocalization in order to “find” it. Paradoxically, this effort often inhibits the eruption of a much desired word, because it is a reality that is revealed very often only by stopping to think about it.
2.4. Temporary friend
Temporary gaps are times in life when, due to a significant lack of attention, we have not been able to create a memory. evocative of what happened. This can happen when performing an automated activity out of habit (Driving, cooking, etc.), so that its development takes place while we are thinking of something else, and we have not come to remember what has happened “in the meantime” . One is a kind of abstraction or even distractibility, in which the awareness of time is lost.
2.5. Task verification
Some tasks are performed so routinely that even though special care has been taken while performing them, it can be difficult to determine whether or not they were actually performed. This is so because its repetition has an interference effect and the person exhibits difficulty in identify if the memory in your “head” corresponds to this last occasion or if it is in fact the imprint of a previous day. The “problem” leads to constant control of the action (closing a door, switching off the stove, etc.).
Pseudo-memory is a generic category that includes all the processes in which false or completely inaccurate memory is evoked. The most common is the conspiracy, Which consists of the “fabrication” of false memories to fill the voids of those who (for various reasons) cannot evoke the entirety of a lived episode. The goal here is therefore to make sense of an experience that it doesn’t have due to its incompleteness, like a puzzle that lacks key pieces to solve it.
Another example is fantastic pseudology. In this case, false memories are deliberately created, but that they cannot be explained by memory gaps, but by an unresolved emotional need. It would seek to generate “events” consistent with the desire to feel in one way or another, which would tend to accentuate their intensity in case the interlocutor is interested (to become totally impossible and truly fanciful acts. ).
To finish, many authors include delusional memories in this category, Through which the person forms reminiscences of a past that never took place. However, such a construction makes sense because it links the experience of the present (distorted by delirium) to the past, thus drawing a timeline consistent with the content of current thoughts and perceptions.
3. Recognition anomalies
Recognition anomalies are errors in the way a memory or stimulus located in the present is processed and can be summed up as bogus something previously experienced presents itself before our eyes as completely new).
3.1. Already seen
Deja vu is a well-known feeling, as practically all of us have been able to experience it on certain occasions. It is the perception that a truly new situation is polished with great familiarity, As if it wasn’t the first time he had walked through it. In colloquial language, it tends to be expressed as “it seems to me” or “I’ve been here”. Over the years, many hypotheses have been made to explain this, from the spiritual to the scientific, although the reason is not yet clear.
Lately its concordance alongside psychiatric disorders has been demonstrated, Mainly depersonalization, as well as in the context of epilepsy or lesions of the temporal cortex. In the case of people without pathology, it is much earlier and less intense.
Finally, many people believe in the possibility that the déjà vu experience allows them to predict particular events that might take place during the unfolding, a distorted belief that has been coined as “pseudo-presentation.”
3.2. Never seen
The never seen is the mirror of the déjà vu, so they could be understood as opposites. In this case, the person is faced with a situation that he or she has already experienced on at least one occasion, but he does not perceive any familiarity at all. So, although he has knowledge of the same or very similar previous experience, he values the fact as if it is completely new. It is less common than déjà vu and can occur in people sensitive to the slight spatial changes that take place in familiar environments (diluting as quickly as needed to identify the change).
Cryptomnesia consists of the firm belief that a memory is not such, but that it is an original production. This way, you run the risk of adopting it as other people’s own ideas or thoughts, As their memory access has no familiarity and / or recognition. It is common in the scientific and artistic fields and has led to countless lawsuits for plagiarism or intellectual property abuse over the years.
- Camina, E. and Güell, F. (2017). The neuroanatomical, neurophysiological and psychological bases of memory: current models and their origins. Frontiers on Psychology, 8, 1-16.
- Tyng, CM, Amin, HU, Saad, MN and Malik, AS (2017). The influences of emotion on learning and memory. Frontiers on Psychology, 8, 1-22.