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Monday, October 11, 2010

Forgetfulness and Types of Memory

How Forgetful can a Person be?

Sarah Miller is an average college student, now enrolled in business management, who has been having trouble with course examinations in management and English. She has failed a couple of quizzes and exams because she could not concentrate on what she was being asked. It looks like her mind goes blank every time she tries to remember what she crammed the night before her evaluations. She started noticing that her memory started failing for two months now, as it sometimes happened when she was in high school. And this situation is, according to her, blowing out of proportion, much more than when she was in high school. Besides, she feels helpless and wants to ask her school counselor for some advice on how to improve her memory skills.

Although Sarah considers herself someone with a good memory, she has forgotten accounting formulas for exercises done at home or in class. In her English grammar class, she sometimes forgets the syntactical formulas explained in class. “What’s happening with my memory?” she has asked herself several times, but finds herself puzzled by the situation. “Am I getting some sort of Alzheimer or something that is sending my memory down the drain?” Sarah feels intense anxiety with this inexplicable problem she is undergoing now.

She doesn’t want anyone to know that she has some trouble remembering things, so what she did last night was to go on line and took a short-term memory quiz to somehow diagnose what is happening to her.

This is the page she visited:

After answering the questions and seeing her results, she started feeling really worried because she has some of the “symptoms” of memory loss such as:

· Not knowing where her house door keys are

· Forgetting whether she had turned off the kitchen lights or locking the front door

· Leaving behind important stuff for her classes at the university such as assignments or books

· Forgetting to call back college partners or forgetting phone numbers or her bank card’s PIN

· Remembering appointments to study at the very last minute

· And remembering things at night right before she goes to sleep (??)

In addition to taking the memory test above, she also visited this other Website and finds that she lacks several of the causes mentioned on it:

She has no trouble with any of these things, and that makes her wonder what is really happening to her:

· No illicit drug consumption, just acetaminophen when she has a headache

· No brain-related maladies

· No prescriptions to follow

· No accidents involving her head

Based on the information, and imagining you are the college counselor or Sarah’s English teacher, whom she talk to this morning, how would you answer these questions:

1. What kind of memory is being affected in Sarah’s case? Her long-term memory or her short-term memory?

2. Is her working memory being affected? Explain why or why not.

3. Are her memory loss “symptoms,” –as she called them-, indications that she is losing her memory? Justify why or why not? (See list above.)

4. How can you explain that she gets to remember things just before she goes to sleep?

5. Could she be suffering from some sort of Alzheimer disorder? Why or why not?

6. Is cramming for tests of any help for Sarah? What does this reveal about her studying habits?

As part of your job responsibilities for the college you are working for, you are requested to complete the following chart to find a way out for Sarah’s memory problem.

Download document here!


Now that you have considered the answers to these questions and listened to your group partners, what seems to be the best action plan to try to restore Sarah’s memory? Should she look for medical assistance? Should she work on memory-enhancing exercises to see what happens in the future?

If you are interested in this subject, it is suggested that you get to read the following short articles.

Do we really forget?

How human memory works