Car wrecks and other accidents are scary in the moment and immediately after. But the resulting trauma can be just as frightening. Memory loss can occur after an accident in many different forms and for different reasons—ranging from temporary lapses to more severe, long-lasting deficits. Beyond initial and ongoing medical treatment, cognitive rehabilitation at Brain Fitness can help with loss of memory after an accident.
Understanding Memory Loss After An Accident
Accidents can cause memory loss in two basic ways: due to physical impact (traumatic brain injuries) or psychological stress. Both can be equally disruptive to your life.
Physical impact from a car accident or other mishap can damage the brain's delicate structures responsible for memory formation and retention. These traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can cause a host of cognitive issues—loss of memory included.
The psychological side of things is multifaceted. First, accidents can trigger the release of stress hormones, which can interfere with memory consolidation. The sudden and intense stress of an accident can also affect memory processing. After the accident, people can develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can exacerbate memory problems. Finally, in severe cases, victims of accidents might dissociate, or mentally detach from the traumatic experience as a coping mechanism. This can result in selective amnesia, even during triggering events long after the accident.
This makes memory loss due to accidents very complex and often layered. In addition to standard medical care for physical injuries, most people experiencing memory loss after an accident can benefit from cognitive therapy or brain injury rehabilitation.
The Different Types of Memory Loss
The functions related to memory formation and recall are myriad—as are the types of memory loss that can occur after an accident, for various reasons:
Transient Global Amnesia (TGA)
TGA is marked by a temporary episode of memory loss or memory interruption, lasting anywhere from several minutes to several hours. TGA remains somewhat of a mystery, but it can be brought on by stress or strenuous activity. TGA does not affect long-term memory.
Anterograde amnesia refers to the brain’s inability to create new memories after a specific event or injury. As such, this memory loss is often the result of a physical injury (specifically damage to the brain’s hippocampus) and is the most common type of memory loss after an accident. This type of memory loss usually affects memory formation and recall after an accident, but doesn’t necessarily affect memories from before an accident.
Retrograde amnesia affects past memory recall—events that occurred prior to an accident in which there is physical or emotional trauma. The severity and duration of this type of memory loss can vary; sometimes memories return while in other cases they may not.
Post-Traumatic Memory Loss
This type of memory loss is psychological—triggered by the stress of the traumatic experience. Severe mental distress brought on by PTSD, flashbacks or dissociation can inhibit memory processing.
Types of Accidents That Can Lead to Memory Loss
Car accidents are a common cause of traumatic brain injuries that can result in memory loss. In addition to the physical injury, car accidents can be particularly stressful and traumatic, resulting in psychological issues that affect memory.
A Slip or Fall
Especially for older people more prone to falls, memory loss from a head injury can be a concern. To compound the issue, older populations are at a higher risk of age-related memory issues, and a head injury as a result of a fall can compound this.
Other Head Trauma
From veterans suffering from TBIs to random everyday accidents, there are, unfortunately, several ways to suffer a brain injury that can result in memory loss. No matter what the injury—or the nature of the resulting memory loss—the Brain Fitness Cognitive Rehabilitation program can help.
Symptoms of Memory Loss After an Accident
Sometimes, memory loss is obvious—other times, more subtle. Here are some of the symptoms of loss of memory due to an accident:
- Forgetfulness. You may have trouble recalling recent events, appointments, or tasks
- Difficulty Learning New Information. It may be harder to retain new information—including names, dates facts and locations
- Repetitive Questions or Behaviors. Frequently asking the same questions or repeating behaviors again unnecessarily (like checking to make sure a door is locked multiple times) may indicate memory loss after an accident
- Confusion. If you’re feeling confused or disoriented more than normal, or are having issues keeping track of time, this could be a result of accident-induced memory loss or other cognitive issues
- Trouble Finding Items. Frequently misplacing items (more than normal) can be a sign of memory loss
- Forgetting Conversations. You may forget key details of recent conversations, or forget that they occurred at all
- Difficulty With Directions or Problem-Solving. If you’re having more trouble following directions or solving problems/making decisions, you may have memory loss from your accident
- Difficulty With Communication. You may struggle to find the right words or communicate effectively during conversations
- Difficulty Remembering People. If you are suddenly struggling to recognize familiar faces it could be due to memory issues
- Memory Gaps. Noticeable gaps in memory in which you cannot recall recent periods of time may indicate accident-induced memory loss
Treatment for and Recovery From Memory Loss From an Accident
Victims of accidents should seek medical and psychological care following their accidents. Beyond standard care, however, cognitive rehabilitation programs can help with ongoing memory issues after the accident—even in the case of a traumatic brain injury.
Recover From Memory Loss After An Accident With Brain Fitness Centers
At Brain Fitness, our team of medical experts has developed the most effective treatments for memory loss from accidents. Our advanced brain training essentially “works out” the brain and helps improve memory formation, recall and other cognitive abilities.
The design was led by Dr. Michael Merzenich, a professor emeritus in neurophysiology, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, co-inventor of the cochlear implant, and Kavli Prize laureate. His international team included neuroscientists who developed the game we use to help traumatic brain injury victims regain function.
The process starts with a thorough assessment and evaluation, using state-of-the-art equipment. Our team then interprets these personalized results and reviews the findings with each patient. This leads to a customized neurocognitive (brain-training) program tailored to each individual’s needs. From there, extensive one-on-one coaching is provided by BFCF staff in a structured setting, ensuring optimal results. Progress is continually monitored, so that individual programs can be fine-tuned if necessary, in order to provide the best outcome.