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Memory-Dr. Paulsen
Don't Forget-Quick Reminders

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      B. Memory
      IV.Common Behaviour Concerns
      Understanding Behaviour in HD
      by Dr. Jane Paulsen
      Definition/Impaired Ability/Learning New Information/Offering Choices


Memory is the ability to learn and remember information.

The primary memory problems in individuals affected by HD are the

1) An impaired ability to learn new information.

2) An impaired ability to recall the remembered information.

Possible Causes

1) An impaired ability to learn new information.

This is most likely due to the disruption of the circuits connecting  the frontal lobes and the caudate in the brain.

Without efficient usage of the frontal lobes, persons with HD experience impairments in the ability to organize and sequence the
information to be learned.

When information is not organized in an efficient manner, retention and recall of the information is very difficult.

For example, try to learn this list of words: pants, shirt, socks, peach, cherry, apple, hammer, wrench, pliers, drum, flute, and trumpet.

Now try to learn this list of words: computer, toothpaste, horse,butter, truck, field, arm, ball, coffee, pencil, straw, and uncle.

It is much easier to learn the list of words with shared categories (clothing, fruits, tools, musical instruments) because you can organize the similar items together as a "chunk" and remember the four categories rather than the entire 12 words.

An impaired ability to learn new information continued

Learning may also become more and more difficult because the impaired caudate makes it difficult to use "divided attention". Divided attention is one type of attention that we use most of the time to attend to more than one thing at a time.

For instance, we often drive a car and listen to the radio, or we talk on the phone and watch TV, or we prepare the family meal and talk.

When the caudate becomes unable to "filter" or regulate information as it travels in the brain, it becomes impossible to use divided attention because all of the information tries to come through the circuit at the same time, causing overload.

2) An impaired ability to recall the remembered information.

Oftentimes it appears that persons with HD have difficulty remembering infor-mation, but the reason for this deficit is that HD disrupts the search mechanism to find the desired word.

For instance, when you ask Katie to tell you what she had for breakfast, she may not respond. It would be a misconception to think that Katie did not remember what she had for breakfast.

When you ask Katie whether she had pancakes or cereal for breakfast, she is able to identify the correct choice. As described in the previous section on communication, HD can disrupt the ability to freely locate the right word for something.

When people are offered a choice from which they can recognize (rather than recall) the memory, they usually perform normally.