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Medical Clive Wearing - the man with no memory

  1. May 22, 2009 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    Source check
    http://www.neurological.org.nz/html/article.php?documentCode=7062 [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. May 22, 2009 #2
    That New Yorker article by Sacks contains almost the whole chapter on Wearing from Sacks' book Musicophilia.

    The thing not included in the article is this weird and frightening opening passage:

    p. 201
  4. May 25, 2009 #3


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    I don’t know that Clive’s condition is all that unusual. Someone I know (Jane) has a similar condition that was brought on by mini-strokes. There’s a medical term for it but I’ve forgotten it now.

    The only difference I see between Jane and Clive is that Clive’s condition is a bit more severe. Clive can’t remember more than 10 seconds ago which includes his past life. Jane can remember most of her life leading up to the onset of the mini-strokes but now can’t remember anything more than a few minutes ago. This condition has persisted for the past ~ 5 years.

    What’s interesting is that both cases show that there ARE memories which are not accessible to the conscious state. Both Clive and Jane have memories for example, of how to speak English, how to write, how to play card games and music learned when younger, they remember faces, etc… There are very complex, stored memories available to their present conscious state, but they seem to be ‘unconscious’ memories. The big difference between Clive and Jane is that Jane has consciouss access to many childhood memories and also many memories leading up to the mini-strokes but Clive may only have unconsious access to those memories.

    The phenomenon seems to share something in common with blindsight in which a person has access to present information but they are not conscious of that information. Still, an individual with blindsight can act on the information which they don’t have conscious access to just as Clive and Jane can act on information (ie: memories) which they don’t have conscious access to. In Clive’s case, he has access to memories and acts on that information (such as giving his wife a warm and loving greeting whenever he sees her) but these unconscious memories conflict with the information available to the conscious part of the brain.

    In both blindsight and Clive’s memory loss condition, unconscious memories come into the conscious state without phenomenal qualities (or properties) and therefore they are in conflict with the phenomenally available information.

    There’s been research recently that suggests memories may be aided by or even maintained by methyl groups which bind to our DNA. I wonder if there’s any evidence in Clive’s case, that the virus is somehow preventing those methyl groups from binding to DNA. I’m sure it isn’t as simple as that, the virus could act on the connections between neurons and in the case of Jane, there seems to be damage to neuron connections caused by the mini-strokes. But it seems there must be considerable research into the various causes of memory loss that include molecular level causes. The same might hold true for such things as blindsight.
  5. May 25, 2009 #4
    Q, you oughta read the stuff at the two links in Ivan's post.
  6. May 25, 2009 #5

    Ivan Seeking

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    I once met a vet at a VA hospital who had no short-term memory. He was able to tell me that he was in Vietnam and was hit with agent orange, but he also introduced himself several times while we were talking. It was a very strange converation, to say the least!
  7. May 25, 2009 #6
    Apparently that's one of the possible symptoms of Agent Orange poisoning:

  8. May 26, 2009 #7

    Ivan Seeking

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    Yes, he understood what had happened to him and he was allowed to roam the complex, so he must have been able to learn new things. However, based on our conversation and what I can remember about it, I would guess that his conversational memory was limited to the last few minutes... maybe less than that.
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