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Forgetfulness: Why Smart People Are Often Fuzzy

Forgot the house key again, left the stove on or forgotten the password? Sometimes our memories fail us, whether old or young. If the dropouts only occur occasionally, there is nothing to worry about. On the contrary: Forgetfulness can even be a sign of intelligence, say Canadian researchers. But what are the causes behind memory disorders and when are they pathological?

Forgetfulness helps the brain prioritize

Even if forgetfulness is annoying and complicates our everyday life, it fulfills an important function medically. It keeps the brain's back free, so to speak, while it filters out which information is important from a flood of data. Information that the brain would like to keep for a long time ends up in long-term memory.

What is only needed for a short time, such as the shopping list or the storage location of the reading glasses, is temporarily anchored in the short-term memory.

What exactly is memory? Memory is the ability of the brain to store information and to be able to call it up again later if necessary. There are basically three types of memory: short-term memory, long-term memory and working memory. There is no clearly definable structure in the brain for memory. Rather, a network of nerve cells is responsible for the ability to remember and remember, which extend over different areas of the brain.

Those who forget a lot make better decisions

For the Canadian brain researchers Paul Frankland and Blake Richards of the University of Toronto, forgetfulness is not only a sign of intelligence, but also determines how good we are at making meaningful decisions. Your statements are based on a study that you published in the specialist magazine "Neuron" (7/2017).

According to this, people can adapt more quickly to new situations if they "delete" irrelevant things from their memory and quickly get rid of minor details in their minds. The prime example of this is the absent-minded professor. The bottom line is that it is easier to face new experiences and challenges and make better decisions if you have not memorized every detail from the past.

Memory performance is subject to fluctuations

How good the performance of the memory is generally depends on many factors and is characterized by fluctuations. These are related to the personal constitution and daily form of the respective person. Stress, fatigue, psychological stress and physical exertion contribute to poor concentration, which often lead to forgetfulness.

In such situations, word-finding problems occur more frequently, appointments are forgotten or objects are misplaced. However, this form of memory impairment, which predominantly affects short-term memory, is usually only temporary. Nevertheless, memory disorders should not be taken lightly. Because forgetfulness is a symptom behind which complex clinical pictures can be found.

Dementia: When forgetfulness becomes a disease

If memory lapses occur frequently, the cause should be clarified by a doctor. In younger people, dementia is as good as impossible. According to the German Alzheimer's Society, less than two percent of all dementias fall under the age of 65.

However, other diseases can be the reason for increasing forgetfulness. Thyroid disorders and diseases of the central nervous system such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's are often associated with forgetfulness and memory problems. Depression and anxiety disorders also have a negative effect on memory performance and reduce the ability to concentrate. The same applies to hormonal disorders, for example during the menopause. Alcohol, certain medications and drugs can also lead to increased forgetfulness. A few years ago researchers discovered that a certain protein, the C-reactive protein, in the blood can also lead to forgetfulness.

The great fear of Alzheimer's

As people get older, it becomes more and more difficult to remember things. They take longer to learn new things, lose the thread in conversations or have difficulty finding words. To some extent, dropouts and memory glitches are completely normal in the elderly and are part of a natural aging process in the brain. A balanced diet, physical activity and targeted memory training often help the gray cells on the jumps.

However, the risk of Alzheimer's disease or vascular dementia increases with age. In this case, the blood flow to the brain is permanently disturbed and damage occurs. The tricky thing is that dementia usually develops insidiously and often goes unnoticed in the early stages. It only becomes apparent when the forgetfulness is accompanied by a disturbed sense of direction or the personality changes. There is no general recommendation as to when you should start worrying about forgetfulness and declining brain performance and consult a doctor and do a dementia test. When in doubt, caution is the better alternative. Because the sooner the disease is recognized, the better it can be treated.

Alzheimer's tests: These symptoms indicate dementia

As people get older, they become increasingly forgetful. This can be due to deficiency symptoms, but also serious illnesses. (Source: ozgurcankaya / Getty Images)

Old age forgetfulness can have many causes

If the doctor has been able to rule out Alzheimer's on the basis of examinations, research into the cause continues. Circulatory disorders that occur as a result of hardening of the arteries are a common trigger for memory deterioration in older people. They can have a negative effect on cognitive performance because the brain is no longer adequately supplied with nutrients and oxygen. This creates old age forgetfulness. However, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, high blood pressure, poorly controlled diabetes or lack of fluids often lead to memory problems and word-finding disorders in the elderly. In rare cases, brain tumors and inflammation of the cerebral vessels are behind forgetfulness and increasing memory lapses.

Important NOTE: The information is in no way a substitute for professional advice or treatment by trained and recognized doctors. The contents of t-online cannot and must not be used to independently make diagnoses or start treatments.

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  • Subjects:
  • Health,
  • Symptoms,
  • Dementia forgetfulness,
  • Diseases,
  • Brain,
  • Memory,
  • Alzheimer,
  • Dementia,
  • Memory training,
  • Forgetfulness,
  • Short term memory,
  • Vascular dementia