Life without memory

I found this two-part documentary on YouTube. It’s about a musician called Clive Wearing, who became amnesic following a herpes encephalitis infection that damaged his hippocampus, as well as parts of his frontal and temporal lobes.

Wearing’s is the most severe case of anterograde amnesia ever recorded. Unlike the famous amnesic Henry M., who can learn simple motor skills, Wearing is incapable of forming any new memories whatsoever. 

Wearing is the subject of this article in The New Yorker, by Oliver Sacks, whose new book about music and the mind is to be published soon.

[The custom media player above contains both parts of the documentary; the second part was filmed 13 years after the first. Part 1 is split into 2 clips, and part 2 into 4. Use the arrows at the edge of the screen to navigate from one clip to another.]


5 thoughts on “Life without memory

  1. Have you seen the movie Unknown White Male?
    Apparently there is some question of its validity but it was interesting. It makes the claim that he got retrograde amnesia, I don’t know anything about that condition but according to the movie he lost all of his episodic memory. He could still do things like write his signature, but didn’t know what his name was. Do you know of any validity to a spontaneous amnesia of all episodic memory?

  2. My husband contracted herpes encephalitis May 12, 2004; after 20 months of marriage. He is not as well known as the subject;in my opinion, his case is worse. He can’t remember how to walk or take care of basic needs. Everytime I re-enter the room he greets me as though I have been absent a long period of time. No matter how many times I tell him, he can’t remember my name. (you can see him trying to recall) – he did remember to tell me to “watch out” as I was speeding in the car 🙂 – he has asked for “wings and a Blue”, his favorite food groups. He remains kind/patient. B/4 he was a Special Education Administrator. I am looking for a group studying this medical mystery.

  3. It’s obvious why people get infections in their hippocampus and other sorts of neurological abnormalities: the fall. How did people explain neurological disorders before when they didn’t know that the brain was the emotion center.

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