Short-term memory is your ability to store small amounts of new information for a limited amount of time. An example is a phone number. You meet someone new, and they give you their name and phone number. The average person will remember the phone number correctly for 18 seconds. Repeating the number to yourself will add another 20 seconds of memory, so if you silently repeat it repeatedly, you can remember the number until you can enter it in your contacts. If you become distracted by conversation or something interrupts this repetition process – it’s gone. Neurological problems have a way of repeatedly interfering with the process of short-term memory.
Short-term memory problems have both an organic and psychological root in superficial siderosis patients. Since Overview Superficial siderosis progression may have profound... More and mood disorders, such as increased irritability, anxiety, and Overview As the symptoms from superficial siderosis progress... More, are experienced with cerebellar degeneration,² neuropsychologists strongly feel stress compounds memory problems. A person suffering from anxiety or depression often has trouble initiating tasks, making decisions, planning future actions, or organizing thoughts, so the ability to complete the repetition process needed to retain new information is severely affected or, in some cases, nonexistent.
Studies have also shown that cortisol contributes to memory loss, especially short-term memory loss, because of its harm to brain cells. Cortisol will be released into your system during times of stress, which is why those with severe anxiety are at high risk of developing memory loss problems.³
In 1956, George Miller observed the span of a healthy person’s immediate memory and absolute judgment was limited. This theory, known as Miller’s Law, states the capacity of an average person’s short-term working memory is 7 (±2) objects and lasts only for a short time. This means that when given a list of items, most people will be able to remember 5-9 of those items, the average being 7.¹
Stress hormones are one mechanism that we believe leads to weathering of the brain. Like a rock on the shoreline, after years and years it will eventually break down and disappear.” -Jason Radley³, assistant professor psychology, UI
Superficial siderosis patients suffering short-term memory problems are encouraged to use:
- written reminders
- phone alarms (for medication and appointments)
- auditory and visual reminders when beginning tasks to help complete tasks
- Concentration games
- Self-repetition exercises to retrain your brain