The other day I was watching one my favorite movies, Memento, and realized I could write a good blog about it. In the movie, director Christopher Nolan’s debut, director of the Dark Knight trilogy and Inception, the main character suffers a brain injury that makes it impossible for him to create any new memories since the accident so he has to constantly write notes to himself and tattoo the important things on his body to ensure he remembers them. This condition is known as anterograde amnesia. If you have ever seen the movie 50 First Dates with Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore’s character suffers from a type of anterograde amnesia after being involved in a car accident resulting in brain damage. In both movies, and an accurate depiction of anterograde amnesia, both characters can remember everything up accident, but nothing after it.
While the cause of this memory loss is usually a result of brain trauma, the process of storing memories is still a somewhat unknown science. While we know that the temporal cortex is involved in the process, the exact science is still a mystery and that is what makes this such an interesting situation.
In this article, it mentions that alcohol can also cause a type of anterograde amnesia, something commonly known as “blacking out”. While just about college student has most likely blacked out at some point in their life, when it happens most of time the only real damage is a terrible headache the next day and having no idea what happened the night before. But imagine waking up the next day and not being able to remember what happened the day before, every day for the rest of your life? You can’t, because a condition like that is life altering. Also in the article, it does say that not all types of anterograde amnesia is as extreme as the two examples used in Hollywood and that there are examples of people recovering and regaining some of their memory. However, even then, any type of amnesia will certainly make someone’s life more challenging.
What really got me about the previously mentioned article were the comments left at the bottom of the story, all from people suffering with some type of memory loss. One comment, from a woman named Margaret Millett, tells how she regained some of her memory, but not enough so that she could keep her job, and now she relies on social security. Another, from Shemicka, says:
“I just don’t want it to last forever. Yes, I’ve learned how to cope, but at times, I just wish I could wake up and things would be back to normal. Like the time when I woke up in the hospital after my coma, things had suddenly changed for me. Please, just let me go back to the day before my accident. I’d make so many different decisions. I can’t turn back now, though, I can only look forward.”
I can only imagine that waking up everyday, knowing that you won’t be able to remember what is happening for the rest of your life and having to deal with that is the one of the hardest parts of such a condition. What would it be like to basically “black out” everyday of your life no matter what you do? Put yourself in that situation, how would you deal with it? Until you’re in that situation, there’s no way you can truly know.