Memory: Common Brain Injury Deficits

Memory is an issue of being able to attend to information. Storing and retrieving information relies on the integrity of attention. It will also differ with the level of fatigue and anxiety. For the blog on fatigue and stress, click here.


Some brain injury patients might have trouble remembering names when they meet someone. Others might have trouble with faces. (Flickr / Creative Commons /

Memory problems often rely on other sources of deficits in basic functions. In mild cases, memory can be due to reduced information processing ability, fatigue, and anxiety. This is why it’s important to get a complete work-up before starting any treatment that will target a specific area of deficit.

If the issue truly is with memory (and not attention, fatigue, or stress), there are still many facets of memory issues. One kind of memory deficit is trouble with the ability to put information into storage, which is called a problem with acquisition. The other kind of memory deficit can trouble with recalling information later on, which is called a problem with retrieval.

The two deficits may occur at the same time or in some combination where there are varying levels of each kind of memory problem. Memory problems may reflect localized injury to the hippocampus, the memory center of the brain.

Memory problems of a specific module may also occur, reflecting both diffuse information processing issues and localized injury. Some people may only have problems when trying to memorize verbal material, and others when the information is visual or spatial. For example, names may be forgotten in some people. Other people might forget faces. Someone else might have trouble navigating even a familiar route.

Angela spoke about some of her memory issues. She spoke about having twelve notebooks where she would write things down to try to remember them, but then never get back to reading her own notes. She found a way to compensate for her memory issues by using an iPad, where she can write notes and mark appointments in her calendar in one place.

For Elizabeth, she had memory issues after her traumatic brain injury, where she would remember faces not names. She admits that she will probably never remember some of the things that happened after her accident. She also speaks of her terrible headaches that she will get.


Gordon Johnson

Attorney Gordon Johnson is one of the nations leading brain injury advocates. He is Past-Chair of the TBILG, a national group of more than 150 brain injury advocates. He has spoken at numerous brain injury seminars and is the author of some of the most read brain injury web pages on the internet.

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