Concussions can cause a range of symptoms — headaches, confusion, and clumsiness. But one of the most frightening concussion symptoms is amnesia.
Unlike what you might have seen in movies and TV programs, getting hit on the head does not always cause amnesia. And amnesia rarely causes you to lose your long-term memory. But it can cause you to lose certain memories and even cause ongoing problems with learning new information and skills.
Here are some facts about memory loss after a concussion and the compensation you can seek for amnesia.
How Does Your Memory Work?
Your brain has two types of memory. Your brain uses short-term memory as working memory to solve problems or perform tasks. The information in short-term memory lasts a few minutes, then disappears from your brain. For example, when you drive to an unfamiliar address, you will probably forget the directions once you reach your destination.
Your brain uses long-term memory to store information for later retrieval. Your brain stores birthdates, faces, and multiplication tables in long-term memory. When you learn a new skill or information, it goes into long-term memory.
Your brain’s memory works in two steps:
Your brain stores information by creating connections between brain cells called neurons. As you repeat and re-hear the information, your brain strengthens the connections associated with the memory. This ensures that the information stays in your memory.
Your brain recalls information by accessing the encoded connections. You can easily recall memories with strong connections made by repetition and learning. But you might have trouble recalling memories with weak connections.
What Are the Effects of a Concussion?
A concussion is a mild form of traumatic brain injury. The brain gets jostled inside your head, and your cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) acts as a cushion to stop your brain from hitting the inside of the skull. But the pressure on the brain from the CSF can damage or destroy brain cells.
Your brain undergoes inflammation in response to the damaged and dying brain cells. Inflammation causes your brain to swell and increase in temperature.
These changes in your brain cause symptoms such as:
- Blurred vision
- Brain fog
- Memory loss
Most concussion symptoms clear up within two months of the injury. But memories lost after a concussion might never return, depending on the cause.
What Types of Memory Loss Can Occur After a Concussion?
Memory loss after a concussion can happen for several reasons, including:
Failure of the Brain to Encode Memories
The most common form of memory loss after a concussion surrounds the accident itself. Many accident victims who suffered a concussion do not recall their accident.
Failure to recall the accident can happen because the brain never encoded the memories. When the brain got jostled in the accident, the trauma might have prevented it from putting information from the senses into your memory.
You can analogize this to writing on a hard drive. If you bang on a hard drive while you store information on it, the data could get scrambled or lost because the hard drive cannot operate while you jostle it.
If you have amnesia about your accident, you might never recover those memories. Since your brain never stored them, it cannot recall them even when your brain has healed.
Suppression of Traumatic Memories By the Brain
After a traumatic event, the brain takes steps to protect itself from a similar event. Sometimes, the brain takes extreme measures by ramping up its sensitivity to anything that reminds it of the event. The brain believes that the best way to avoid a repeat accident is to remain on edge over anything that could remotely signify the accident.
This brain condition causes post-traumatic stress disorder. You might have flashbacks or panic attacks when you drive past the accident scene or hear the song that was playing on the radio when you had your accident.
Your brain might also take steps to prevent you from reliving the traumatic event. It may block the recall of your accident to protect you from the memories. Doctors can treat this dissociative amnesia with therapy and counseling. After treatment, you can often recall the blocked memories.
Brain Damage to the Memory Centers
The rarest form of concussion-related amnesia occurs when your concussion damages your memory center. The damage could affect specific memories if your concussion damaged or destroyed a neuron that was part of the connection encoding the memory. For example, you might forget certain childhood memories if the neurons encoding them get damaged.
The damage could also affect the encoding and recall centers of the brain. If these areas get damaged, you might have difficulty learning new information or skills after your concussion. This can happen because your brain cannot encode the new information by creating neural connections. It can also happen when your brain cannot recall information by tracing neural connections.
In either case, your inability to learn and recall new information might profoundly affect your ability to work. If you cannot learn new information or skills, you become trapped in the jobs you already know. And if new processes or technologies get introduced into your workplace, you might not have the ability to learn how to use them.
In some cases, occupational therapists can help you find ways to work around your memory issues.
What Compensation Can You Seek for Memory Loss After a Concussion?
You can pursue compensation from a party who negligently caused your accident. To get compensation, you must show that the at-fault party failed to exercise reasonable care and that their failure caused your injuries.
If you prove negligence, you can seek economic and non-economic damages. These damages include your hard costs, such as medical expenses and lost income, and the diminishment in your quality of life caused by pain, mental anguish, and disability.
Memory loss can require expensive therapy to treat and overcome or cope with it and affect your ability to earn a living. Contact our Minner Vines Moncus Injury Lawyers to discuss your concussion-related amnesia and the compensation you can seek for it at (859) 550-2900.