Real and Not So Real Retrograde Amnesia
Retrograde amnesia (RA) is the impairment in memory retrieval for information acquired normally before the event that caused the amnesia (Cohen 2011). RA varies in its degree and temporal extent while also varying in its aspects of memory impairment. Memory for facts, personal events, world knowledge, skills, personality, and personal identity are specific aspects of memory that may be affected (Cohen 2011). In the case of Clive Wearing, almost all aspects of his memory of the remote past are lost except for his ability to play the piano exceptionally well (Wilson 1995). This gives us an idea of just how independently our brain stores the different types of information and how diverse amnesiac patients can be. There are two types of RA, organic and functional amnesia. Organic RA is cause by structural brain damage and varies in temporal extent and is associated with some kind of anterograde amnesia. Organic RA can extend from a couple weeks as is seen in traumatic brain injuries, to several decades as seen in the movie The Music Never Stopped, where the main character, Greg, had organic RA that extended back decades. It is also typically graded due to memory consolidation mechanisms that increase the ability to hold on to older memories while more recent memories are more likely to be affected by brain disruptions.
Organic RA is also typically graded due to memory consolidation mechanisms. The brain has an increased hold on remote memories, while more recent memories are not as strongly held onto and are thus more likely to be lost due to brain disruptions. Temporally limited and temporally extensive organic RA’s
differ in the length of the time period of memory loss, but are similar in that the more recent past is worse than the more remote past memory. Temporally limited RA can be seen in individual’s who have had bilateral ECT treatments in which graded memory loss extends back 1-3 years (Cohen 2011)....
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