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Dr. Rallie McAllister


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Minor Memory Lapses Could Signal CRS Syndrome


Sooner or later, it happens to everyone. Sometime in our mid- to late 40s, we succumb to CRS (Can't Remember Stuff) syndrome.

The condition is unavoidable, permanent and irreversible.

I've already been stricken. My husband, who suffers from a far more debilitating case of CRS syndrome, recently asked me a simple question.

"What was the name of that movie you made me watch with you when you were pregnant? You know, the love story on the big boat?"

Somewhere deep in my brain, a lonely neuron flickered and died. I gave him a blank stare and scratched my head.

Just milliseconds before he asked, I knew the title of the film as well as I know my own name. I could recite the complete cast of characters and the exact dollar amount the movie grossed at the box office.

But by some bizarre occurrence, the information had become hopelessly mired in a gooey crevice of my cerebrum, refusing to budge. Not one to give up, I mercilessly racked my brain.

Two days and a tension headache later, I shouted, "Titanic!" My husband was decidedly unimpressed.

You'll know that you have officially developed CRS syndrome when you start scribbling ridiculous notes to yourself that state the blatantly obvious. But if you don't put these things in writing, there's no way you can remember them.

If you've got CRS syndrome, it's absolutely imperative to record vital information before it mysteriously evaporates from your brain. You may want to keep a notebook filled with important facts, such as your children's names and your home address, just in case you draw a blank at an inopportune time.

This peripheral memory bank is less temperamental and more reliable than the one that's built into your brain. You might want to make several copies of your notebook, since you'll undoubtedly forget where you left the original when you need it most.

If you've got CRS syndrome, you'll spend much of your free time searching for missing items, especially eyeglasses. It's Mother Nature's cruel joke that just when we develop an absolute dependence on reading glasses, we're totally incapable of keeping up with them.

You may be tempted to overcome this problem by stringing your glasses around your neck with a decorative chain.

You should resist this urge at all costs, since it's a sure sign that you're not only losing your vision, you're losing your mind, as well.

Although there is no doubt that CRS syndrome exists, I'm not entirely convinced that it's caused by the age-related deterioration of our gray matter. It's more likely due to the fact that our brains are simply overloaded.

Having a bazillion bytes of information hurled at you on a daily basis by televisions, radios, computers, billboards and other people can be too much for the average human brain. The sheer enormity of it all can simply overwhelm our poor neurons every now and then.

There's a reason our brains worked so well when we were kids. All we had to remember were the names of a few siblings and dogs, and maybe a secret handshake or two.

Now we're expected to remember the names of dozens of co-workers, friends and family members, as well as their former husbands, ex-wives, current spouses, significant others, stepchildren and grandkids.

Back in the old days, people didn't waste their time memorizing bits of seemingly useless information or randomly chosen numbers, but now, there seems to be no way to avoid it. Modern civilization requires you to be ready and able to cough up dozens of personal identification numbers and passwords.

It's no wonder that most of us develop CRS syndrome by the time we're mature adults. However frustrating it may be, it's usually not a sign of impending senility.

Forgetting where you left your car keys isn't necessarily a cause for alarm. Forgetting what your car looks like or what it does, on the other hand, is a bit more concerning.

The good news is that although some memory functions tend to deteriorate slightly with age, many aspects of intelligence, including verbal ability, actually improve as we grow older. With a little practice, we can use this to our advantage.

While we may not be able to remember stuff as well as we once did, we can, uh, effectively compensate for our transient forgetfulness with eloquent, extemporaneous and totally irrelevant verbiage, and no one will notice that we have developed CRS syndrome.

Rallie McAllister, M.D., is a family physician, speaker and co-founder of, a website featuring child-raising tips from trusted doctors who are also moms. To find out more about Rallie McAllister, M.D., and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



1 Comments | Post Comment
I had CRS of sudden onset during a serious illness; it was the can't remember s**t variety because of toxins that caused some very real brain damage from a strep (flesh-eating variety) in a breast implant pocket. I had emergency surgery on Feb. 3 that literally saved my life. I'm regaining my mental capacity a painful inch at a time, but to be fair I already had to make lists and lists of lists to keep my work and home business straight. Doubtless being 65 years old didn't help a lot.
Comment: #1
Posted by: mary
Tue Mar 22, 2011 8:03 AM
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