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Old 09-20-2010, 04:32 PM
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Memory loss and ethics

Hey Guys
I have a question regarding brain surgery, memory loss and ethics.
I had a right temperlobal hippocampectomy back Nov and it was a success as far as seizures are concerned, however memory has been adversely affected to the point where I can only learn be doing , not by learning (like I could before) but if I have to i have to study for hours and hours.
My question is I am currently in college as well as work and because of the memory loss am failing most exams, is it unethical of me to take memory loss medication e.g. Reminyl, Cognex, Aricept and Exelonto improve this for exam purposes?
All suggestions are welcome :-)
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Old 09-20-2010, 05:15 PM
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In my opinion this is not like sports where people are competing supposedly on equal footings. The point of an exam is to prove that you know it & no supplement can teach you something you don't know so I don't see a problem from an ethical standpoint.

That being said, I would be careful because if you consider that all anti-epileptic drug's function by slowing the firing of neurons then you have to remember that any supplement that would claim to enhance memory would work by increasing the firing of neurons hence increasing the probability of triggering a seizure. Of course having a seizure before an exam does more harm (at least to me) than not taking a supplement that claims to increase my memory.
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Old 09-20-2010, 07:56 PM
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Could they accommodate this with allowing you a longer exam time? I have known people who are given that privilege due to a disability.

Do you live in a dorm? Can you find an environment that's ideal for you to study without distractions?
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Old 09-21-2010, 05:06 AM
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Originally Posted by alivenwell View Post:
Could they accommodate this with allowing you a longer exam time? I have known people who are given that privilege due to a disability.

Do you live in a dorm? Can you find an environment that's ideal for you to study without distractions?
Its not so much needing the extra time in the exams to accomodate this as it is having to adjust to new learning patterns after the surgery.
I do finish the exam in time before the time expires so i dont have an issue with that , but when studying the information i dont feel i am storing it like I used to.
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Old 09-21-2010, 08:16 AM
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Hi r_a --

You raise a good question! The use of memory-retention drugs by students who have no health problems is already a hot-button issue on some campuses. It's a bit like athletes using steroids or uppers, or swimmers wearing high-tech suits that they know will significantly increase their speed.

In your case, do you know for sure that the memory loss medication will improve your retention? Will it give you an unfair advantage over other students, or merely bring you back to where you were before your surgery. Is there even a way to measure such things? What if a brain injury suddenly gave you the ability to do high-level math that you didn't have before -- would you then need to take drugs to "slow you down"? I don't think there's a clear ethical answer at this point. Is there someone in your college's counseling department or ethics board whom you could approach with this topic?

I do agree with Eric that a more important issue is whether the drugs are safe for you to take in the first place, something that you should definitely discuss with your doctor.
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Old 09-21-2010, 10:24 AM
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Hi Rude Awakening,

Glad to hear your surgery for seizures was a success (so far), but the memory loss is something that goes with brain surgery. I had a LEFT temporal lobectomy and was seizure free for only 14 months, but the memory was/is bad. Does the hospital where you had the surgery offer any kind of memory therapy(visual/spatial) for brain injury/surgery patients? I had this type of therapy and they did help me learn new ways of remembering, although it takes a bit longer. And as far as the surgery, your brain is still recuperating, since you had the surgery just last Nov. They say it will take the brain 2 years to heal.

As far as taking those memory medications..... why put yourself in more danger? There are side effects to all meds. My father actually has Alzheimer's and the Aricept has improved his memory, but it also caused him to go psychotic and have dizzy spells, vomiting, etc. You had brain surgery to stop the seizures, so IMO, it would be foolish to put more poison in your body to improve memory.

Like they have said before me, discuss this with your doctor.
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Last edited by Cint; 09-21-2010 at 10:26 AM. Reason: misspelled word
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Old 09-21-2010, 10:53 AM
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Hey, RA.

I agree with the others. It's not unethical to take memory enhancing drugs, but there may be other accomodations for you which are less harmful to your health. Do you have access to an occupational therapist who might help you out? What does your doctor say?
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Old 09-22-2010, 01:28 AM
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Have you tried learning the information in different ways?
My daughters school will allow her to scan the work in a special lab, so that she can listen to the information as an MP3 file.

Perhaps hearing the info vs reading the info will help you retain it better

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Old 10-08-2010, 07:32 PM
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I went back to school after surgery and found out the college had a learning center, which dealt with people with medical problems. I was able to get extended test time and on several tests I could use open book. My memory came back slowly, but continued to get better over the years as I came off Lamictal. I am now 5 years after surgery and 8 months medication-free and feel I have finally levelled off. I found when I let the profs know I had a lobectomy versus "just" brain surgery, they went out of their ways to accomodate. 2 classes allowed me to skip quizzes and instead do papers. Ask the profs directly.
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Old 11-20-2010, 10:04 AM
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Ask your counseling department for this assessment test. This will help you figure out how you learn best. Try on your own, if you want (I'm big into google searches). Hope this helps.
"The more I see the less I know for sure." - John Lennon

Last edited by Shelley; 11-20-2010 at 10:25 AM. Reason: add site
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Old 11-20-2010, 09:07 PM
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Schools are much more progressive now when it comes to epilepsy and it's always best to talk to both your school counselors and your individual profs. Improving your ability to learn takes time and even then, the process of taking a test can negate that learning. I would suggest discussing practice tests for each of your classes, so you can work on the specific memory skills needed. You could also use the exercise of creating your own test from your learning materials, which would get you closer to the real thing and allow you to structure your thinking. I hope that makes sense.
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