Clive Wearing has a highly unusual combination of Anterograde and Retrograde amnesia. Retrograde amnesia is a loss of memory before an injury or the onset of a disease, and Anterograde amnesia is a loss of the ability to create new ones. This occurred after he contracted a viral infection called Herpesviral encephalitis; a virus that attacked his central nervous system, particularly affecting his hippocampus, located in the centre of the brain, responsible for the transference of information from his short term memory to his long term memory.
He has been described as being ‘The man with a 7 second memory’, as his memory can be as little as seven seconds old, but is usually seven to thirty seconds long, unless he is playing or conducting a piece of music or doing some 'string' of tasks similar to such.
Prior to his condition, Wearing was a highly successful member of the choral music industry, being a prestigious conductor, keyboardist and tenor singer. He can still perform pieces of music on the keyboard due to the procedural memory aspect of his long term memory being unaffected by the loss of the short term. This means he cannot recall learning the skill, but can still perform it, similar to the fact that people can retain the ability to do motor tasks without conscious thought; a popular example is that one never forgets how to ride a bike. It is theorised that because this was such a practised and life skill, it became unnecessary for conscious thought, (or short term or working memory) to be required for such an action.
Following his condition, his Retrograde amnesia means that prior to the onset of the virus in 1985, he cannot recall things such as his children’s names, even though he does know that they exist. Significantly also he does also remember his second wife, Deborah, to whom he bears a love he does not forget, but he does not recall their interactions. Every time she visits, or even returns to the room after