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Long-Term Memory Problems.

bananabas

Senior Member
Messages
133
ICC lists short term memory problems as a common symptom of ME, but apart from those, I seem to have also long-term memory problems, which I have not seen mentioned anywhere. Examples: I cannot recall people's birthdays, years when things happened, or sometimes actual events that other people who also partook seem to recall perfectly.

I see two possible explanations for this. Either the recording mechanism has a problem, or the recall mechanism has a problem. Of course, it can also be a combination of both.

By recording mechanism here I mean, at that distant time in the past when the even took place, due to ME it was not recorded properly. By recall mechanism I mean, now, in the present, ME is preventing the thing from being remembered.
Or it could be just an effect of PEM/brain fog, which makes it generally hard to think.
 

Sushi

Moderation Resource Albuquerque
Messages
19,934
Location
Albuquerque
I see two possible explanations for this. Either the recording mechanism has a problem, or the recall mechanism has a problem. Of course, it can also be a combination of both.
I've tried to figure out what is happening with my memory problems and for me, this is what I think. I have two problems: 1) what you called the recording mechanism or to be more specific the mechanism that gets a short term memory transferred to a long term memory. Since I know this is a problem, I use tricks and aids like either writing it down somewhere like a planner if it is something that I have to do, and also sort of pounding the memory in mentally--repeating it to myself again and again and maybe associating it with something.

2) is recall and most of us have that problem. We can't dredge stuff up from long term memory. So a conversation (you may see some here!) between 2 ME/CFS patients might go something like this: "You know that thing that is has a rectangular shape, is soft and we rest our head on it?" (a pillow) "Oh, right, I know what you mean and I use them all the time but can't remember what they are called."
 

ahmo

Senior Member
Messages
4,805
Location
Northcoast NSW, Australia
I've concluded that I have poor architecture for memory, from early on. There were incidents from my past that a childhood friend remembered, but I didn't. Same applies to shared memories in my more recent life: I have no recall for events, scenes. Maybe that's what you mean by recording mechanism. My working memory is so porous as to be in shreds. But I also don't forget things, like tasks, from day to day. I write lists, but usually don't need them.
 

South

Senior Member
Messages
466
Location
Southeastern United States

alex3619

Senior Member
Messages
13,810
Location
Logan, Queensland, Australia
I have noticed that long term memory issues are rife in longer term patients. I see this more often in patients who have been sick a long time, but it can start early. Some years ago I came to a tentative conclusion that this becomes more common after the third year, so it was intriguing to me that our biochemistry seems to change at about that point (the Hornig and Lipkin research).

I now have something resembling episodic amnesia. Most of my memory, as people usually count memory, is gone. My semantic memory, or the memory of ideas and the kind of thing that allows me to write posts like this, is still largely intact though not doing well.

I also seem to have areas of memory that are worse than others. Memory is not a monolithic thing, its a collection of many capacities in the brain. How they are affected can vary patient by patient.

One strategy I came to use subconsciously, and indeed I have heard this from many patients after I started asking about this, is I repeat over and over anything that is important to me. I then tend to recall the facts, if not the event.

Its a lot like I am a stranger playing my life, using my diaries of events to substitute for real memory.

Yet I also think the real memory is largely still there. I suspect its mostly a recall problem, though I am also aware that my memory of the years when I was at my worst is almost non-existent. So its probably, in my opinion, a combination of recall failure (in which bits of memory from all over the brain have to be integrated) and also a problem in forming memory.
 

PNR2008

Senior Member
Messages
613
Location
OH USA
My long term memory seems etched in stone. I remember words said, clothes worn and the way the furniture was placed in rooms from my childhood, even old telephone numbers and addresses but the numbers are all gone except for early memories.
I recently met two friends I knew when I was 6 years old and I remembered their cousins that visited and one boy had a birthmark on his temple that looked like a leaf. I haven't thought of this guy for 50 years.
.
Now I struggle with any numbers, phone numbers even if called every day, any codes like my garage door are words never numbers. Yet spelling has become a terror or learning anything new on the computer has me swooning. Also I used to put together anything, pilates machine, install ceiling fans, follow directions on an appliance or put together a dog cage, vacuum cleaner (and take it apart). No more.

Some of this is may be genetic, my Dad and brothers were machinists and great readers like me. Still this memory thing has me stumped maybe I should read a book on it.
 

mermaid

Senior Member
Messages
714
Location
UK
I was very interested in the subject of long term memory as I also have problems with this, though some of it is a bit selective. I have a neighbour who is in his early 70s and he seems to have an amazing memory for names and incidents which astounds me. My memory has never been good I realise, but I think it's much worse now than it was.

My memory is very fuzzy about particular times in my life I realise. However it is clearer on other times, so maybe it's to do with significant events that get etched into the memory where recall is better.

I have a particular memory that relates to when I had glandular fever which was pretty traumatic as I was very ill at aged 13 and they were going to send me off to an isolation hospital but my mother persuaded them that she could look after me instead. Anyway, the memory is that an aunt brought me a pile of books from a 2nd hand shop - about 9 or 10 in all, and they were all fantastic and perfect for a 13 year old. I had never been given so many books in one go and I was desperately bored and grateful (I wish I could contact her now and thank her but she is dead).

I have sometimes gone over the list of the titles of these books but could never remember them all, and the other day one of the titles that I had forgotten literally popped into my head when someone talked of moths on the TV. The book was A Girl of the Limberlost (has moths as one of the main themes), and I had probably forgotten that title for maybe 40 years!
 

bananabas

Senior Member
Messages
133
Indidentally, I have a feeling that scientifically we know very little about memory. We hardly know what it is, where it is situated or how it functions, so from that perspective I guess it makes little sense to split it into short-term and long-term memory.
 

panckage

Senior Member
Messages
777
Location
Vancouver, BC
For me I think its mostly a recall issue made worse by restricted input and lack of cognitive repetition.

My mind is muddled half the time. I have also acquired tunnel vision. Ie. If I are walking home and I feel like I'm going to pass out (common! ) there's no way I'm going to notice the environment around me. In turn this muddling and tunnel vision of my mind also causes me to have a blank mind so I am unlikely to 'renew' memories by remembering them. I've also found that my memories don't usually contain emotion. When I remember a hobby I don't feel love. I don't feel hate. It just hurts to think. My instinct is to clear my mind. If I keep trying to force myself to think I get negative associations with the memories/topics :ill:

OTOH when I vape small amounts of marijuana I find my memory works quite well and is rich in emotion. It becomes fairly easy to swing from emotional memory to emotional memory and reminisce.

So for me my long term memory is mostly there, although in a state of disrepair....
 

alex3619

Senior Member
Messages
13,810
Location
Logan, Queensland, Australia
Also I used to put together anything, pilates machine, install ceiling fans, follow directions on an appliance or put together a dog cage, vacuum cleaner (and take it apart). No more.
My brain can no longer handle 3D geometry at even simple levels. My example is a plastic bag. If I said I struggled to open it you might not be surprised. However I cannot open one that is already open more often than not. It doesn't stop me thinking through the problem though ... if I have somewhere OK to do it I can pick up the bag and shake it until something falls out. It was simply inconceivable to me for most of my life I could ever have this problem.
 

alex3619

Senior Member
Messages
13,810
Location
Logan, Queensland, Australia
If I are walking home and I feel like I'm going to pass out (common! ) there's no way I'm going to notice the environment around me.
I am notorious for even walking past friends without seeing them. To cope I have to throw all my attention on what I am doing. If something else happens, something I am not looking for, I often do not see it.
 

alex3619

Senior Member
Messages
13,810
Location
Logan, Queensland, Australia
Indidentally, I have a feeling that scientifically we know very little about memory. We hardly know what it is, where it is situated or how it functions, so from that perspective I guess it makes little sense to split it into short-term and long-term memory.
The distinction is largely empirical. There is a lot of theory, and some evidence, but its definitely not fully understood. Even what a memory is seems elusive.
 
Messages
36
From a cellular level, I think a lot of this may be due to the integrity of neuronal structures. Thought processes are governed by the healthy "state" and connections between neuronal synapses in the brain, so it's logical to assume that realizing your full potential for remembering things may be largely in part, due to how healthy your brain cells are.

If memories are stored within the connections of these cells and they disintegrate due to age(like an old biological computer), this may be why some people's long term memory are better than others. Genetics, diet, etc play a role.
 

meandthecat

Senior Member
Messages
206
Location
West country UK
My brain can no longer handle 3D geometry at even simple levels. My example is a plastic bag. If I said I struggled to open it you might not be surprised. However I cannot open one that is already open more often than not. It doesn't stop me thinking through the problem though ... if I have somewhere OK to do it I can pick up the bag and shake it until something falls out.

I used to say that I couldn't think my way out of a paper-bag, people thought I was exaggerating, I was being literal, my capacity to think in the abstract vanished. I used to enjoy theoretical chemistry. Who was that person...