Two-thirds of stroke survivors experience cognitive changes, according to a 2015 article in the Stroke Journal by Tiozzo and colleagues.
The most common cognitive issues that survivors experience are decreased short-term memory, difficulty with attention and concentration, and problems with executive function.
In my video this week, I walk you through three remediation activities and three compensatory strategies that you can use if you’re struggling with short-term memory loss.
Types of Memory
We have several different types of memory and different areas of the brain that are responsible for each type.
Explicit memory is one type of long-term memory that is composed of the events that have happened to us (episodic) and the general knowledge we have (semantic) and relies on the hippocampus, neocortex, and amygdala.
Implicit memory is a type of long-term memory associated with motor functions (like brushing our teeth) and relies on the basal ganglia and cerebellum. We typically don’t have to think about this type of memory, also known as procedural memory, because it’s almost like an “automated procedure.” Most of us have been brushing our teeth since we were tiny kiddos, so we don’t have to really think about those habitual movements unless a brain injury occurs.
Short-term memory, or working memory, allows us to remember a small amount of information for short periods of time. Many research articles have shown that it relies heavily on the prefrontal cortex, although other areas of the brain are involved as well.
Short-term memory is often affected in stroke survivors and can make it difficult to safely complete the activities that you need and want to do, like cooking, driving, and grocery shopping. We use short-term memory to help us not add an ingredient twice into our recipes, to remember the directions on where we’re going, and which items to buy at the grocery store.
Improving Short-Term Memory
There are two different approaches to improving short-term memory: remediation and compensation.
Remediation is the process of trying to make actual brain changes through cognitive exercises and activities.
Compensation is the process of using external or internal strategies or aids to route around memory deficits so you can still do what you need to do.
Neither approach is better than the other. I would argue that it takes a combination of both.
You know I love to talk about neuroplasticity and physical rehabilitation. It’s no different with cognitive changes! The brain needs repetition, intensity, and consistency to make neural changes to improve both physical mobility and cognition. Both remedial and compensatory approaches have been shown to improve cognitive performance!
Try out some activities to improve and compensate for short-term memory by watching my video this week.