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10/21/09

Anterograde Amnesia


What would it be like to be Rip Van Winkle every thirty seconds? That is, to remember at most in thirty second segments, and to forget everything beyond that time span? According to the video below, it is like continually waking up. It is like a repeated surprise. Oh, so this is new! Oh, so that is new! Soon, the continual newness gets old.

The movie Memento puts a Hollywood spin on the condition. The lead character suffers from anterograde amnesia and searches for the man he believes raped and killed his wife during a burglary. His brain incurred severe trauma during the attack on his wife and he cannot store new memories. To compensate, he takes copious notes and photographs, as well as tatoos, to keep information about himself, others, and his wife's killer.

"In most cases of anterograde amnesia, patients lose declarative memory, or the recollection of facts, but they retain non-declarative memory, often called procedural memory. For instance, they are able to remember and in some cases learn how to do things such as talking on the phone or riding a bicycle, but they may not remember what they had eaten earlier that day for lunch. In addition, patients have a diminished ability to remember the temporal context in which objects were presented." More

In brief, anterograde amnesia applies to those who can't remember after the event that caused the memory loss. Retrograde amnesia applies to people who can't remember what happened before the event. Some people suffer both kinds.

The man in the video below cannot remember beyond fifty or sixty seconds. He tells the woman that each time he feels like he has just awakened. He feels continual amazement. He cannot remember dreams, or what he did five minutes ago. He knows he is aging and by listening to him you understand he feels that without memory he is losing his life. As soon as he wakes up he makes a diary entry to the effect that he has just awakened. Then he wakes up again and crosses out the previous entry because he believes he has just awakened this time instead .


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