Korsakoff’s syndrome is a disorder in which a lack of thiamine results in anterograde and retrograde amnesia — those with the disorder exhibit the loss of newly formed memories, and a degeneration in their ability to remember events from their past (Spiegel, Lim, 2011, p. 15). Found generally in alcoholics, the combination of their compromised metabolism and thiamine deficiency results in Wernicke’s Encephalopathy, which then progresses to Korsakoff’s syndrome (Thompson, Guerrini, Marshall 2012, p. 81). Interestingly, as opposed to having a general loss of memory across their lifespan, some studies have found a relative preservation of memories from childhood and early adulthood in people presenting with Korsakoff’s syndrome (Race, Verfaellie, 2012, p. 105).
However, there have been many instances of conflicting evidence — the number of variables in an individual’s life results in a wide range of results. In their article Remote memory function and dysfunction in Korsakoff’s syndrome, Race and Verfaellie found mixed results, stating “theories of remote memory impairment in KS must account for both the extensive range and temporally graded pattern of the impairment” (2012, p. 113). Thus, any study attempting to conclusively find that childhood memories in Korsakoff’s syndrome are better preserved than memories later in life, or vice versa, must recognize the potential of the syndrome to be widely varied.
In using the Autobiographical Memory Interview (AMI), which questions subjects about their personal past — covering topics such as schools attended, teachers names, and first jobs — and then comparing against accounts from next-of-kin as well as medical records and clinical histories, Race and Verfaellie explored four sections of their subjects lives: background (family) information, childhood, young adulthood, and recent (2012, p. 110). Consistently, people with Korsakoff’s syndrome showed memory impairment across each section, with...
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