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Epilepsy Scotland GuidesEpilepsyand memoryHelpline: 0808 800 2200Text: 07786 209 501www.epilepsyscotland.org.ukEpilepsy Scotland,48 Govan Rd, Glasgow G51 1JLGeneral: 0141 427 4911Fax: 0141 419 1709Email: [email protected] Action Scotland is acompany limited by guarantee.Registered in Scotland No 163987Scottish Charity: No SC000067.Production of this leafletis supported by UCBPharma Ltd. UCB PharmaLtd have no editorial control overthe content of this leaflet.Copyright 2010.

ContentsIntroduction3What is epilepsy?3Memory4Memory problems5Memory and epilepsy6Improving memory8Problem areas10Finally11IntroductionWhat is epilepsy?This guide explains why peoplewith epilepsy can have memoryproblems. This leaflet explainswhy. It also gives some ideas forimproving memory.Epilepsy is one of the mostcommon serious neurologicalconditions. People with epilepsyhave repeated seizures. Mostseizures will stop with the rightmedication. People can have oneseizure and not have epilepsy.The reason could be a hightemperature or a head injury.Seizures usually last a short time.The brain works normally betweenseizures. Billions of brain cells passmessages to each other and thesecontrol what we say and do. Aseizure can happen if the brain’selectrical activity is disrupted andthese messages get mixed up.03

MemoryWe all forget things like people’snames and where we have leftour keys. When this happens wecan feel frustrated. Our memoryholds so much information it is notsurprising it can sometimes let usdown. Our memory lets us recallevents, people and places and allthe facts we know. We use it tostore and remember everythingwe have learned and experienced.Our memory has two parts; ourshort term memory and longterm memory.Short term memory (STM)We use this memory to rememberinformation for a short time, afew seconds or minutes. It is thenforgotten. Often we remember forlong enough to carry out a task, forexample, buying today’s groceries.04Memory problemsLong term memory (LTM)We use this type of memory tostore and hold details for a longtime. We can usually find thesememories as we need them. Forexample, when we are first givenour bank card security number wehave to learn it and use it beforeit stays in our long term memory.Each time we need to withdrawmoney, our memory gives us thecard number.Information we want to storeusually needs to be practiced orlinked to something we alreadyknow. It then passes from ourshort term memory to our longterm memory. This process ofrepeating information is calledencoding or learning.When we want to remembersomething we find it in our shortor long term memory. Informationpasses daily between these twomemory stores.Memory problems happen fordifferent reasons. There are threestages to memory: learning, storingand finding the memory. Mistakescan take place at any of thesestages causing us to forget. Wemay have problems with certaintypes of memory, such as thoselisted in the table below.MemoryShort termmemoryLong termmemoryVisual memoryVerbal Different ways to rememberWe use different ways to help usremember. We have to be ableto memorise faces, facts, datesand places we’ve been and howto do things.The most common types ofmemory we use are:Usethis is our workingmemory. It holdsinformation for a shorttimethis is our memory bankthis is the memory weuse to recognise facesand objectsthis is the memory weuse for spoken wordsthis is the memory weuse to do somethingthis is the memory weuse to remember factsthis is the memory weuse for events in our lifeExampleremembering a newperson’s name duringthe first conversationremembering ouraddressrecognising our friendsand familyremembering thewords of songsriding a bike, washingdishesremembering capitalcitiesremembering eventsfrom our childhood05

Memoryand epilepsyPeople with epilepsy often havememory difficulties. This canbe for many reasons:Cause of epilepsySome people have a cause fortheir epilepsy. This can be due todamage to the brain from a headinjury or infection. If part of thebrain that deals with memoryis damaged this could lead tosome memory loss. People withtemporal lobe epilepsy often havememory problems. This is becausethe temporal lobe is where welearn new memories.SeizuresA person’s memory can beaffected before, during andafter a seizure. Changes in thebrain before a seizure can meaninformation is not processed wellenough to pass to our long termmemory. Awareness can also beaffected during a seizure. Thismeans people have little or norecollection of what has happened.Even between seizures a person’smemory may be affected. Thisis because brain activity may bedisrupted even though it is notenough to lead to a seizure.Epilepsy medicationMany people worry that themedication they take for theirepilepsy causes poor memory.The side effects of somemedication (for example poorconcentration and drowsiness) canaffect remembering. However,your memory will be improvedif the drugs stop or lower thenumber of seizures you have.06If you feel your medication affectsyour memory speak to yourGP, nurse or epilepsy specialist.Do not stop your epilepsymedication without medicaladvice.SurgerySome people with epilepsy havesurgery to try and stop seizures.Sometimes people have memoryproblems as a result of the surgery.MoodHow we feel can affect ourconcentration and attention,which can then affect our memory.Research shows that people withepilepsy are more likely to bedepressed or anxious. If our brainsare overloaded by these feelingswe can become distracted andunable to focus on information.In turn this will affect our memory.Lack of sleepPeople with epilepsy need to haveenough sleep because lack ofsleep can be a trigger for seizures.When you are well-rested yourmemory improves. This is becausetiredness makes people less ableto concentrate, learn and storenew information.07

ImprovingmemorySome people have general memoryproblems. Others have a particulardifficulty such as rememberingnames or how to get somewhere.People with epilepsy will haveextra information to remember,like taking tablets, noting seizuretriggers and medical appointments.If you know you are forgetful,there are many things you can doto help you remember. Your familyand friends may also be able toremind you.Try these tips to help your memory:Focus on one thing at a timeIt helps to do one thing at a time.Try to focus. If you are not payingclose attention to a task or to newinformation you may not rememberit later. Develop daily routines andtry to be as organised as possible.This will help you to plan thethings you want to do.08Don’t overload your memoryMistakes are more likely if yourmemory has to deal with manythings all at once. If there is toomuch information, your brain maybecome overloaded. You can thenforget things.Record informationIt helps to write things down.Keep a diary and calendar ofevents. Write down any tasks thatyou need to do.Staying activeKeep your mind active by doingthings you enjoy. This could beanything from crosswords andsudoku to playing computergames. Physical exercise likewalking can also help.Looking after yourselfStress can affect epilepsy aswell as memory. Speak to yourGP or nurse about relaxation tips.Try to relieve stress where you can.Call our Helpline on 0808 800 2200to find out about different ways tomanage your epilepsy.Extra helpAsk your local pharmacist abouthaving your tablets delivered.Health aids include tabletdispensers and repeat prescriptioncards. Memory aids are helpful.These include diaries, calendars,notepads, post-it notes, digitalvoice recorders, talking clocksand mobile phone alarms.09

ProblemareasFinallyOnce you know where you have problems with your memoryyou can work on ways to improve this.If you often forget names:DoIf you are forgetful:Do focus when you are first learningthe name say the name out loud inconversation try to link the name to someoneor something you know. Thiscould be another person youknow with the same name use an image to help youremember, for example, try topicture grey hair and a hamsandwich to remind you that yournew neighbour is called Graham think back to the first time youmet. What was the memory linkyou made?Don’t use back up methods like adiary and calendar worry or panic. You can chatto someone without sayingtheir name feel bad saying you haveforgotten. Most people find ithard to remember names10 check your diary and plan yourday with set routines eg takingyour tablets with breakfast leave your calendar, notes andreminders in places where youwill see them ask friends and family to remindyou of important dates set your mobile phone, computer,or a talking clock to remind you ofappointments. This is good if youare doing an activity different toyour usual routine think about using the first letterof words or words that rhyme(mnemonics) to help yourmemory. For example, if youneed to buy bacon, apples andtomatoes you could use the wordBAT as a reminder plan your journey if you havedifficulty finding places. Try toremember landmarks on the waythere. This can be easier thanmemorising a map.Don’t worry or panic if you forget theway. You can ask someone fordirections put things off. Write them downas soon as you rememberIf you often lose things:Do make it a habit to put importantobjects like your keys or moneyin the same place each day focus on the task as you put yourbelongings away use labels on drawers andcupboards to remind you wherethings are keptAll of us can learn new ways toimprove our memory. It helps tohave set routines. Think over anyinformation you need to remember.It takes time to form new routines.Don’t get frustrated if it takes longerthan you’d like. Our memory holdshuge amounts of information. Forthis reason we should not be toohard on ourselves when we forget.People with epilepsy can oftenworry that they will lose theirmemory completely and developdementia. This is rarely thecase. Speak to your GP if you areworried about your memory. Askto see a memory specialist. Callour Helpline on 0808 800 2200 totalk over any concerns you have.You can also find out about localepilepsy support groups where youcan share your experiences.11

What is epilepsy? 3 Memory 4 Memory problems 5 Memory and epilepsy 6 Improving memory 8 Problem areas 10 Finally 11 This guide explains why people with epilepsy can have memory problems. This leaflet explains why. It also gives some ideas for improving memory.