FIBROMYALGIA AND MEMORY: ARE YOU LOSING YOUR MIND?
Since being diagnosed with FM have you:
- walked into a room and forgot why you were there?
- had difficulty finding the right words to express yourself?
- had difficulty remembering new information?
The answer is probably yes! You may be wondering if you are losing your mind as these cognitive disruptions can be very distressing. But it's important to remember that most patients with Fibromyalgia experience problems with their memory. This is often referred to as 'Fibro Fog'.
Symptoms of FibroFog
Short Term Memory Loss
Difficulty remembering where you put things
Difficulty remembering plans
The heavy stuff about memory
First, a few basics on how memory works. Most people are aware that there are two types of memory: short-term and long-term. Short-term memory, also known as active or working memory, consists of the day-to-day details that people consciously pay attention to at any one time. Unlike short-term memory, long-term memory has virtually unlimited capacity and is not easily disrupted by environmental "noise".
Memory is basically laid down by a series of cascading chemical events which incorporate: (1) the acquisition of information, (2) the storage of information, and (3) the retrieval of information when it is needed. Each of these steps is linked to the previous ‘production’ of a particular memory and requires all stages to be fulfilled in order for any particular event or topic to get put into solid form for retrieval.
Figure 1 - areas of brain known to be associated with memory.
Within the brain itself is an area known as the hippocampus, which is part of a network of regions in the brain that are important for memory. Research suggests that the nucleus of the thalamus, amygdala, and hippocampus may work in concert to regulate which information is consolidated in memory - see Figure 1. You may have heard of things called neurons and dendrites? These are like trees and branches. See Fig 2 below. If the tree does not sprout any branches, then no leaves can be produced - if a neuron doesn't get 'pushed' into producing dendrites to store memory chemicals in, then no memory is produced or set in place.
We are born with something like 300,000 more neurons than required and lose most of those within the first week of life incredibly - but the brain has the capacity to continue to produce more neurons in response to requirements throughout our lives and especially where memory is concerned. The more you 'push' your memory and stretch it, the more it will grow in capacity and 'learn'.
Figure 2: Schematic diagram of nerve cells showing dendrites and communication across each via synapses (for chemical transfer).
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