How Emotions, Thinking, and Memory Are Affected by Stroke
Effects on Thinking and MemoryA stroke can cause damage to parts of the brain responsible for memory, learning, and awareness. Stroke survivors may have dramatically shortened attention spans or may experience deficits in short-term memory. Individuals may also lose their ability to:
- Make plans
- Comprehend meaning
- Learn new tasks
- Engage in other complex mental activities.
Two fairly common deficits resulting from stroke are:
- Anosognosia, which is an inability to acknowledge the reality of the physical impairments resulting from stroke
- Neglect, the loss of the ability to respond to objects or sensory stimuli located on one side of the body, usually the stroke-impaired side.
Stroke survivors may also develop a neurological disorder known as apraxia. People with apraxia lose their ability to plan the steps involved in a complex task and to carry the steps out in the proper sequence. Stroke survivors with apraxia may also have problems following a set of instructions. Apraxia appears to be caused by a disruption of the subtle connections that exist between thought and action.
(Click Apraxia for more information.)
- A sense of grief for their physical and mental losses.
These feelings are a natural response to the psychological trauma of stroke. Some emotional disturbances and personality changes result from the physical effects of brain damage. Clinical depression, which is a sense of hopelessness that disrupts an individual's ability to function, appears to be the emotional disorder most commonly experienced by stroke survivors. Signs of clinical depression include:
- Sleep disturbances
- A radical change in eating patterns that may lead to sudden weight loss or gain
- Social withdrawal
- Suicidal thoughts.
Healthcare providers may treat post-stroke depression with antidepressant medications and psychological counseling.
(Click Stroke and Depression for more information about the link between stroke and depression.)