What is Amnesia?
Amnesia, or memory loss, occurs when there is a problem with the way the brain stores or retrieves memories. Amnesia can result from a medical condition or physical trauma (organic amnesia), and/or emotional trauma (functional amnesia) that causes memories to be improperly stored or lost.
Anterograde amnesia is when the ability to recall information presented after the onset of amnesia is severely impaired; retrograde amnesia is when information acquired before the onset of amnesia is impaired. Both types of amnesia can be present at once.
Natural interventions such as choline and phosphatidylserine may help improve memory and aid cognition.
What Can Cause Amnesia?
- Brain tumors
- Traumatic brain injury
- Migraine headaches
- Certain drugs such as benzodiazepines
- Infections such as Lyme disease, HIV/AIDS, or syphilis
- Deficiencies of vitamins and other nutrients, such as vitamin B12 or thiamine
- Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Psychological trauma, and others
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Amnesia?
- Asking the same questions repeatedly
- Forgetting appointments
- Misplacing objects
- Inability to recall events or previously acquired information
What are Conventional Medical Treatments for Amnesia?
- If there is an underlying medical condition, treating that may relieve the amnesia (eg, cholinesterase inhibitors and NMDA receptor agonists to treat Alzheimer’s; thiamine supplementation to treat a thiamin deficiency)
What are Emerging Therapies for Amnesia?
- Guanfacine, an ADHD medication, may improve memory problems.
- Piracetam, a synthetic derivative of the neurotransmitter GABA, has gained interest for treating memory problems.
- Electrical stimulation, such as transcranial direct current stimulation, may improve working memory and recognition.
- Hormone therapy with pregnenolone and/or dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) may have implications for memory disorders.
What Natural Interventions May Be Beneficial for Memory?
- Choline. Choline is a lipid component that supports the structure and function of neurons. A form of choline, alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine, has been shown to improve memory, attention, concentration, and cognition in many clinical studies.
- Phosphatidylserine. Phosphatidylserine, another lipid component of neurons, has been shown to improve cognition, memory, neuron health, and more in multiple clinical studies.
- B vitamins. The B vitamins (folate, thiamine, B6, and B12) are essential for brain and overall health. High levels of homocysteine, which is associated with B vitamin insufficiency, can damage neurons. Supplementation with B vitamins may slow cognitive decline.
- Acetyl-L-carnitine. Acetyl-L-carnitine may have various neuroprotective effects. It has been shown in animal models to improve neurodegenerative dysfunction in Alzheimer’s, stroke, head trauma, and others.
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). CoQ10 may have neuroprotective action. CoQ10 can protect parts of the brain from ischemic damage (such as from a stroke) and reduced behavioral effects of amnesia in animal models.
- Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ). Another potentially neuroprotective compound, PQQ, may improve cognitive function and prevent neuronal death associated with amnesia.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids is good for brain health and can improve working memory. Animal studies have shown omega-3’s protect the brain from amnesia caused by ischemia, medications, and lead poisoning.
- Magnesium. Magnesium plays an important role in the central nervous system. Patients with Alzheimer’s may have low levels of magnesium, and supplementation has prevented memory loss in animal models.
- Ginkgo biloba. Ginkgo biloba is an extensively researched medicinal plant that can improve memory and slow cognitive decline.
- Other natural interventions that may help cognition and memory include ashwagandha, huperzine A, vinpocetine, and blueberry.