August 8th, 2016: Understanding and Remembrance Day for Severe Myalgic Encephalomyelitis
Jody Smith joins with other ME voices in honor of Understanding and Remembrance Day for Severe Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.
Discuss the article on the Forums.

Variation in Working Memory

Discussion in 'Cognition' started by anciendaze, Aug 17, 2017.

  1. anciendaze

    anciendaze Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,806
    Likes:
    4,655
    Due to an Amazon back-to-school special today I was able to pick up the ebook textbook Variation in Working Memory for a fraction of regular price. This is not the standard kindle price you may see when you search with a computer. I only got it via a kindle app on my tablet.

    Problems with working memory are one of the worst aspects of my impairment, and stopped me from holding a job. Now doctors can blame this on age, but it started when I was in my early 20s. I have been frustrated that no doctor seemed much concerned when I reported enormous reduction in my ability to remember things while working. At one time I had demonstrated a "digit span" that one psychologist said was impossible (36 digits). He felt I was cheating, but never figured out how. Naturally, when this "impossible" ability went away nobody was concerned.

    I believe this is a real aspect of "brain fog" which varies in response to exercise and other factors, and it has bothered me that no one wanted to investigate this measurable impairment.
     
    Izola, Sean, Mel9 and 23 others like this.
  2. Mrs Sowester

    Mrs Sowester Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,033
    Likes:
    7,282
    Since ME I fail the dementia test where you're given 3 items to remember then asked to recall them a few minutes later. The second item is a struggle to recall and the third eludes me completely.
     
    Izola, Sean, Mel9 and 9 others like this.
  3. TiredSam

    TiredSam The wise nematode hibernates

    Messages:
    2,677
    Likes:
    21,535
    Germany
    I can decide to open a website, click the mouse on a favourite link, and when the website has opened a fraction of a second later I'm staring at the screen thinking "what on earth did I want to do here?"
     
    juniper, Izola, Dechi and 21 others like this.
  4. Manganus

    Manganus Senior Member

    Messages:
    166
    Likes:
    394
    Canary islands
    Liking equals recognition! :hug:
     
  5. Old Bones

    Old Bones Senior Member

    Messages:
    808
    Likes:
    4,906
    I agree. Although not the only factor, having no working memory post-ME was one of the functional limitations that ended my career in my mid-30's. Previously responsible for awarding contracts and managing budgets worth millions of dollars, I became unable to add three 3-digit numbers together using a calculator and get the same answer twice. Each time it was different. I attributed this to working memory.

    Years (actually decades) later, poor working memory still impairs my ability to do many tasks: cooking (following a recipe), playing the piano, knitting and other hobbies, plus countless others. Can't say for sure how many -- I don't have the working memory to count.
     
    Izola, panckage, L'engle and 19 others like this.
  6. rosie26

    rosie26 Senior Member

    Messages:
    2,406
    Likes:
    5,133
    A year after my mild ME onset I had to drop out of a course of study because I could not retain what I learned. The amount I had learned was reduced as well. Overnight I would lose what I though I had retained to memory.

    I vividly remember how disquieted I was about this change and the sense of foreboding that something major had happened. Looking back on myself I can see how I just drifted in the thick fog from this point, difficulty processing, overwhelmed easily.

    I had studied in the years before my ME onset and had not had any problem retaining information.
     
    Izola, L'engle, merylg and 7 others like this.
  7. Old Bones

    Old Bones Senior Member

    Messages:
    808
    Likes:
    4,906
    @rosie26 I know exactly what you mean, and yes, it is disquieting. It seems many of us with ME have difficulties similar to the cognitive decline experienced by the elderly, but in our case it starts in our teens, 20's, 30's, etc. So, will we even notice the early signs of dementia?

    My best example of problems retaining information involves the playing the piano. Despite decades of lessons and experience pre-ME, there is not a single piece I can play. Practice had no effect as I'd retained nothing by the following day. Actually, the more I practiced, the worse I got (PEM from cognitive effort). I finally gave up in frustration.

    Although I'm sorry to hear you are also easily overwhelmed, at least it tells me this is the result of the illness, and not mental weakness!
     
  8. JaimeS

    JaimeS Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,193
    Likes:
    11,792
    Mid-Ohio Valley, United States
    I had an IQ test early in the illness, certain I was getting stupider.

    I felt like a moron. I could do the tasks but I made the neuropsychologist repeat the questions over... and over... and over. Multi-step problems were beyond me, because by the time I reached the next calculation, I'd forgotten the results from the first.

    DHA has helped, and so has CoQ10. But it still happens if I overdo it, especially with math, with names, and with advanced vocabulary I haven't known my whole life: technical terms.
     
    Mel9, MEMum, L'engle and 7 others like this.
  9. rosie26

    rosie26 Senior Member

    Messages:
    2,406
    Likes:
    5,133
    @Old Bones Yes, the more I tried to learn and retain information the worse it became.

    I know now, especially since severe onset, to not push my brain at learning. I can't, my head symptoms were very frightening at severe and during my severe years. I've had people tell me over the years that I should "bother myself to learn something, put the *effort* in". As if I were too lazy. They don't know what I have been through. No, I will when my brain is in good health again, thanks, but no thanks. I am not a lazy person.

    I do hope that this brain stuff is not permanent damage.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2017
    Izola, MEMum, L'engle and 6 others like this.
  10. Old Bones

    Old Bones Senior Member

    Messages:
    808
    Likes:
    4,906
    Absolutely -- the same misperceptions that apply to exercise (that it is good for everyone) also apply to cognitive effort. Most people don't realize that ME changes virtually everything they know, and we previously knew, about being human. The rules no longer apply to us.

    On a positive note, I don't think this "brain stuff" involves permanent damage. Again, I'll use piano as an example. When I was still trying to play, every few years I'd experience actually being a pianist -- accurate notes, tempo, and interpretation all at the same time! Although short-lived, it felt wonderful. I interpreted this to mean the ability is still there. It's just "turned off" most of the time. Now, if only we knew how to turn our abilities back on permanently.
     
    flitza, Izola, MEMum and 7 others like this.
  11. rosie26

    rosie26 Senior Member

    Messages:
    2,406
    Likes:
    5,133
    I possibly have moments like that too but it's not clear to me. Pity we couldn't hear you play a tune for us @Old Bones :hug:
     
    Izola, MEMum, JaimeS and 1 other person like this.
  12. Philipp

    Philipp

    Messages:
    75
    Likes:
    489
    I just read the other day that the huge difference between working memory and stuff like locomotive control is that you need to be consciously 'involved' to keep it going, and that's most certainly hard as hell for me. I can do most things without too many limitations as long as I do not have to think about them and do not need any 'intent' to do them. If I have to think consciously about it, especially while standing up and to a lesser extent while sitting, I am really kinda... well, fucked. Controlled motions suck on the bad days as well, but on 'normal' days I can put together my muesli without hurting me or making a mess.

    I recently re-tried the IQ-test thing after almost a decade and reestablished that on good days, my problem solving skills are not necessarily worse than before, but I can access them for much less time. The difference between types of problems which I was already familiar with and stuff that was new to me was huge, with the latter turning my brain off within half a minute or so.

    Maybe we could work backwards from this and eventually find something something basal ganglia or something something right arcuate fasciculus.
     
    MEMum, rosie26, JaimeS and 2 others like this.
  13. Manganus

    Manganus Senior Member

    Messages:
    166
    Likes:
    394
    Canary islands
    This fits perfectly with my experience.

    My first (recognized) onset was in 1980. Since then, I've had a series of relapses (unfortunately more and more frequently, and seemingly deeper, for each time).

    What I managed to learn and/or understand before each relapse is rather well preserved, but the stuff I was trying to learn when diving into any of these relapses is lost. And actually, there is some kind of emotional stop-sign, telling me: "Don't go there! Do not once again try with that exertion!"
     
    MEMum, rosie26, JaimeS and 3 others like this.
  14. Invisible Woman

    Invisible Woman Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,212
    Likes:
    7,414
    I find that when I try to "push" myself to learn something new (even something trivial) I will then forget a whole range of other things such as passwords etc as well as the new information.

    If I just rest up and leave it for a few days the passwords will come back but not the new stuff.

    This is just so irritating. As a student and throughout the short career I had I was used to absorbing and analyzing large amounts of technical data very quickly. I was known for it among colleagues apparently.

    Losing this skill I barely recognized I had is one of the things about being ill that has hit me the hardest.
     
  15. alex3619

    alex3619 Senior Member

    Messages:
    12,491
    Likes:
    35,107
    Logan, Queensland, Australia
    I aced one of the dementia tests several years back. I could recall all the words bar one or two out of a long list, and I did that three times. However they put patterns in the words, and my pattern recognition kicked in. Even while writing this paragraph I forgot what I was doing, though only once. Once I lose track of something the odds of recalling it rapidly diminish.

    I used to have a very good memory, now I am skirting dementia territory, but they wont accept dementia largely because my capacity to reason is still good. Its just as well as I suspect I will largely recover if I ever get a proper ME treatment, such as if Rituximab is found to work and I respond to it.

    Just today I was talking with a long term severe patient on the phone for hours. I recall that, it was a long conversation, but the details ... ? Its not just that we have low working memory, its that we have specific cognitive capacities that stop working properly. With me its numbers, three D geometry, visual recognition of complex objects (hence the 3D thing), using the wrong word, lack of episodic recall and so on. If you quickly peruse the thread on ME Moments you will see a host of problems. Working memory is one of them.
     
    Izola, MEMum, merylg and 8 others like this.
  16. Skycloud

    Skycloud Senior Member

    Messages:
    463
    Likes:
    2,298
    UK
    I wouldn't be surprised to learn that this is a feature of all of us; that we consciously or unconsciously support our deficiency of cognitive function in one area with better function in another.

    (edit to add that testing by clinicians and researchers should account for this)

    Speaking generally, I expect we all have developed strategies to support or bypass some of our cognitive problems.

    I know I'm worse than people usually realise, but I'm not sure even I have a fully accurate picture of my own cognitive function, or how I've adapted to the changes. I avoid some things, like multi-tasking, mostly without even thinking.
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2017
    flitza, Izola, MEMum and 9 others like this.
  17. anciendaze

    anciendaze Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,806
    Likes:
    4,655
    I still haven't read that book. I'm busy dealing with daily problems due to episodic unreliable executive function and poor working memory. This has less effect on writing, where I can edit what I think before posting. What struck me about the title was that it dealt with variations, which permanent brain damage does not show. This is where recovery seems most possible.

    Here's what I wrote a medical friend on my frustration with the way this kind of thing gets completely brushed off by medical doctors:

    Can't say for sure if this would have direct clinical value, but I was shocked when I went from being able to demonstrate a "digit span" of 36 digits, heard once, which at least one psychologist told me was impossible, down to about 10 or 12 digits. No medical personnel were even interested in the change. After all, I might be faking.

    They never did figure out how I faked an original digit span nobody they knew could match. If you aren't interested in how brains work, and how they stop working, why would you enter psychology?​

    BTW: nobody in the profession has seemed to worry much about the possibility researchers testing people might be deliberately distorting results of testing, ala PACE , though patients are still fair game for suspicion. There are ways of dealing with subject attempts to fake test results which do not depend on trusting the prior opinions of professionals about what research results should demonstrate.

    That exchange I've mentioned included a digression on genetic testing, for which the honest professional I was communicating with admitted there was not a lot you could do based on current practice, unless you just happen to hit a marker for a condition which shows the problem is not psychological at all. He still hasn't addressed the issue of repeatedly trying to find problems you can't change, while ignoring the fact that patients with some conditions do show intermittent dramatic improvements. They might be faking the low results, but how they fake the high ones is completely outside the scope of clinical investigation. This despite the fact that a patient who could consistently produce that performance would no longer be a patient or recipient of government aid.

    Isn't that what medical professionals say they are aiming to accomplish?
     
    Azriel likes this.
  18. JaimeS

    JaimeS Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,193
    Likes:
    11,792
    Mid-Ohio Valley, United States
    Agreed. If the damage were permanent, the effects wouldn't be mitigated by supplements, and return when I stopped taking them.

    I was just thinking about this on my way to work this morning. It took me ages to qualitatively separate that emotional stop sign from the physical sensation of tired or the lack-a-wanna. ;) I realized that the feeling of please for heaven's sake stop almost always precedes a crash and began paying more attention.

    Part of a grand tradition, isn't it? That's something the BPS school has suggested: find a few things you know won't show signs of dysfunction and test them in order to "reassure" the patient.

    ....sigh.
     
  19. alex3619

    alex3619 Senior Member

    Messages:
    12,491
    Likes:
    35,107
    Logan, Queensland, Australia
    One of my core strategies is to go over and over the things I want to recall. Its very much like a rehearsal strategy. However I diversify it with nonsense ditties, thinking about things different ways and so on, to enhance not just forming memory but enhancing recall. Even so its starting to fail.

    I also rehearse hypothetical conversations. When I am really tired or stressed out I run what are effectively stored scripts. So long as the story stays on script I can appear to function. My real thinking occurs when I am more rested and in a quiet place. I have a huge number of stored scripts, though I do forget them too. On the rare occasion I start running a script that is inapplicable then I can probably sound psychotic to anyone who does not know what is going on. After a bit though I do realize the wrong script is running. Its led to some embarrassing moments, including saying silly things at a wedding reception.
     
    Izola, Mel9, JaimeS and 4 others like this.
  20. alex3619

    alex3619 Senior Member

    Messages:
    12,491
    Likes:
    35,107
    Logan, Queensland, Australia
    Rare very short remissions in some patients also show this. Full remission for several hours is a big clue.
     

See more popular forum discussions.

Share This Page