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Memory Problems following Brain Injury

See our TBI Home Page for a full list of information about Brain Injury, and links to information and strategies relating to memory, attention, social skills, executive functioning, and improving communication.
It is common to have memory problems following brain injury. When we hear, see and remember information, the memory process completes several processes, and difficulties may occur when some or all of these processes are compromised by an injury:


  • An individual may have difficulty holding information as they hear it because they have difficulties concentrating or attending.
  • Difficulties may occur when the individual is processing information. At this stage the information needs to be understood, held for a few seconds, processed, and then stored.
  • The individual may be able to hold and store the information, but then not be able to access it.


Different types of Memory Function:

  • Short Term Memory – this our ability to hold a small amount of information in our memory for a few seconds.
  • Working Memory – this allows us to hold a small amount of information and carry out another task with this information at the same time. For instance, if someone asks you to say the numbers 3851 backwards, not only would you need to remember these numbers, but you would also have to simultaneously do the mental calculation to repeat them backwards.
  • Long Term Memory – this holds a huge amount of information for an indefinite period


Following an acquired brain injury the long term memory often remains intact, but there is a problem with short term memory and storing new memories. Remembering the right words and word finding difficulties may also be a common problem following traumatic brain injury (TBI).


Strategies to facilitate memory

Treatment and rehabilitation usually takes the form of strategies, put in place to help memory. It is important that individuals with memory problems get into a routine so their behaviour becomes habit:

  • Use your Diary!!! This is probably the most important piece of equipment. Get in the habit of checking it several times a day. Write everything you need to remember. Put lists down the side of the page and tick the things off as you do them. Put the diary somewhere obvious so you can see it.
  • Have systems for everything – have a filing system for paperwork, use calendars, lists, sticky notes, and noticeboards.
  • Use technology such as mobile phone and computer calendars and alarms.
  • Always put things in the same place – diary, keys etc.


For more information about communication difficulties, and ideas and strategies to help communication, see our Resources, or for specific fact-sheets about TBI and information and strategies for improving communication, memory and attention skills go to the Downloads Section.


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