Hollywood loves leading characters with amnesia. Since the days of silent film, attractive stars have hit their head, fallen unconscious and woken up with no memory of their life or identity. Later -- usually after discovering a newfound appreciation for life -- they're hit on the head again and the amnesia is cured. It's an entertaining scenario, but nearly impossible. Although some scripts are more realistic than others, comedies, thrillers and action movies have used amnesia as a plot device. The following recent popular films provide a sampling of Hollywood's love affair with memory loss:
- "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"
- "Mulholland Dr."
- "Vanilla Sky"
- The Bourne Trilogy
Aside from film, the amnesia theme constantly pops up in popular culture. Sudden cases of amnesia are classic soap opera fodder. On the more intellectual end of the cultural spectrum, authors including Charles Dickens (in "A Tale of Two Cities") have worked amnesia into their novels. Even rock band Radiohead called their 2001 album "Amnesiac." Book critic for Time magazine, Lev Grossman, describes Americans' cultural obsession with amnesia as a "national tradition" [source: Grossman]. He says the concept of the American dream is based on a metaphorical amnesia in which people leave behind their former lives to achieve success.
Maybe it's the mystery of amnesia that makes it appealing to watch and read about. Memory is our only personal record of the past and of who we are as individuals. In this way, it links our pasts to our futures. But while erasing your history may seem appealing, true cases of amnesia prove that starting over in the brain is a delicate, complicated process. To read more about mind and memory, check out the links below.
More Great Links
- Aetna InteliHealth. "How Memory Works." (Feb. 5, 2008) http://www.intelihealth.com/IH/ihtIH/WSIHW000/31393/31397/347126.html?d=dmtContent
- Baxendale, Sallie. "Memories aren't made of this: amnesia at the movies." British Medical Journal. Vol. 329, no. 7480. Dec. 18, 2004. (Feb. 10, 2008)http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=535990
- Branswell, Helen. "Fluke discovery: Brain stimulation may help fight memory loss." The Canadian Press. Jan. 30, 2008. (Feb. 1, 2008)http://chealth.canoe.ca/channel_health_news_details.asp?news_id=24210&news_c
- Canadian Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction. "The Brain from Top to Bottom." (Feb. 4, 2008) http://thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/index_d.html
- Chudler, Eric. "Making Connections -- The Synapse." Washington University. (Feb. 6, 2008) http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/synapse.html
- Granhag, Par Anders and Leif A. Stromwall. "The Detection of Deception in Forensic Contexts." 2004. Cambridge University Press. (Feb. 8, 2008)http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=SF7zaHHkePUC&oi=fnd&pg=PA195&dq=percent+of+offenders+who+claim+amnesia&ots=dNH5rUS0au&sig=yiGxAGuwVC6mcmPKiztMpg_8ZKk#PPA203,M1
- Grossman, Lev. "Amnesia the Beautiful." Time. March 24, 2001. (Feb. 8, 2008) http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,603222,00.html
- Kihlstrom, John F. "Hypnosis, Memory, and Amnesia: Posthypnotic Amnesia." March 19, 2007. (Feb. 6, 2008) http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~kihlstrm/hypnosis_memory.htm
- Kopelman, Michael D. "Disorders of Memory." Brain. Vol. 125, pt. 10. October 2002. (Feb. 6, 2008) http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/125/10/2152#SEC9
- Mayo Clinic. "Amnesia." Oct. 11, 2007. (Feb. 4, 2008) http://www.mayoclinic.com/print/amnesia/DS01041/DSECTION=all&METHOD=print
- Mayo Clinic. "Transient Global Amnesia." Aug. 17, 2007. (Feb. 4, 2008)http://www.mayoclinic.com/print/transient-global-amnesia/DS01022/DSECTION=all&METHOD=print
- MedlinePlus Encyclopedia. "Memory." (Feb. 4, 2008)http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/memory.html
- MedlinePlus Encyclopedia. "Memory Loss." Nov. 21, 2006. (Feb. 4, 2008)http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003257.htm
- Mendelsohn, Avi, Yossi Chalamish, Alexander Solomonovich and Yadin Dudai. "Mesmerizing Memories: Brain Substrates of Episodic Memory Suppression in Posthypnotic Amnesia." Neuron. Vol. 57. Jan. 10, 2008. (Feb. 10, 2008) http://www.neuron.org/content/article/abstract?uid=PIIS0896627307009828
- Pyszora, Natalie, Ann. F Barker and Michael D. Kopelman. "Amnesia for criminal offences: a study of life sentence prisoners." Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology. Vol. 14, no. 13. Dec. 3, 2003. (Feb. 7, 2008) http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a713790344~db=all
- Sacks, Oliver. "The Abyss." The New Yorker. Sept. 24, 2007. (Feb. 19, 2008) http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/09/24/070924fa_fact_sacks
- Schmerling, Robert H. "Forget What You Heard About Amnesia." Aetna InteliHealth News. Feb. 19, 2002. (Feb. 7, 2008) http://www.intelihealth.com/IH/ihtIH/WSIHW000/31393/31479/345689.html?d=dmtICNNews
- ScienceDaily. "Hypnosis Study Reveals Brain's 'Amnesia Centers'." Jan. 10, 2008. (Feb. 6, 2008) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080109173842.htm
- Segal, David. "A Trip Down Memory Lane; Did Doug Bruce Forget It All, Or Just the Boring Truth?" Washington Post. March 22, 2006.
- Shimamura, Arthur. "Organic Amnesia." Encyclopedia of Learning and Memory, pp. 30-35. Macmillan. 1992.
- Society for Neuroscience. "How do Facts Stick in our Mind?" (Feb. 4, 2008)http://www.sfn.org/index.cfm?pagename=brainBackgrounders_howDoFactsStickInOurMind
- Society for Neuroscience. "Stress and the Brain." Brain Briefings. November/December 2003. (Feb. 5, 2008) http://www.sfn.org/index.cfm?pagename=brainBriefings_stressAndTheBrain
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Coping with Memory Loss." May 3, 2007. (Feb. 4, 2008)http://www.fda.gov/consumer/features/memoryloss0507.html
- White, Aaron M. "Alcohol-induced blackouts." Duke University. 2004. (Feb. 12, 2008)http://www.duke.edu/~amwhite/Blackouts/blackouts3.html