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Neuropsychologia. 2010 Aug;48(10):2833-40. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.05.025. Epub 2010 May 21.

Losing memories overnight: a unique form of human amnesia.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, United States.

Abstract

Since an automobile accident in 2005, patient FL has reported difficulty retaining information from one day to the next. During the course of any given day, she describes her memory as normal. However, memory for each day disappears during a night of sleep. She reports good memory for events that occurred before the accident. Although this pattern of memory impairment is, to our knowledge, unique to the medical literature, it was depicted in the fictional film "50 First Dates". On formal testing, FL performed moderately well when trying to remember material that she had learned during the same day, but she exhibited no memory at all for material that she knew had been presented on a previous day. For some tests, unbeknownst to FL, material learned on the previous day was intermixed with material learned on the same day as the test. On these occasions, FL's memory was good. Thus, she was able to remember events from earlier days when memory was tested covertly. FL performed differently in a number of ways from individuals who were instructed to consciously feign her pattern of memory impairment. It was also the impression of those who worked with FL that she believed she had the memory impairment that she described and that she was not intentionally feigning amnesia. On the basis of her neuropsychological findings, together with a normal neurological exam, normal MRI findings, and psychiatric evaluation, we suggest that FL exhibits a unique form of functional amnesia and that its characterization may have been influenced by knowledge of how amnesia was depicted in a popular film. She subsequently improved (and began retaining day-to-day memory) at Johns Hopkins University where she was in a supportive in-patient environment and was shown how to take control of her condition by interrupting her sleep at 4-h intervals.

Published by Elsevier Ltd.

PMID:
20493889
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2914200
Free PMC Article
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