Memento, Movies and Memory

Recently I watched the movie Memento and it brought back memories of HM. HM, a famous neuropsychological patient (full name not revealed to preserve his privacy) suffered from amnesia, whose case heralded a whole new slew of findings on human memory.

In early 1950’s HM was treated for epilepsy by having both his hippocampi (a small part of the brain, named for the fact that it is shaped like a sea-horse) removed. Something strange happened. From that point onwards HM was unable to make new memories. He froze in time. He knew who he was (so it was not a case of forgetting his past). He simply could not form any new memories from that day onwards. A few psychologists discovered his case and so started a momentous period in memory research.

The movie Memento shows a somewhat similar case, that of Shelby who is unable to form new memories. His way of dealing with it (amnesia) is to take pictures and write notes in order to remind himself of events and people.

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The culprit behind limited working memory capacity

What does a snapshot of human cognitive architecture show- a sensory system allowing us to take in a lot of information from the world, a vast long-term memory store and a severely limited working memory store. The limited working memory store represents a bottleneck in human cognitive processing. Two recent studies published in Nature show that the brain area related to the capacity limitation of memory capacity has finally been located!

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