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Future Amnesia

January 31, 2007

Some patients with amnesia not only can’t remember the past, but they can’t imagine the future.


How amnesia clouds the future. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Some people with amnesia not only forget past experiences, but also can’t envision future ones. This according to neuroscientist Eleanor Maguire of University College London and her colleagues.

ELEANOR MAGUIRE (Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, University College London):
They were very impaired at imagining both fictitious events, such as lying on a sandy beach, but also experiences that might actually happen to them in the future, such as the next time you’re going to meet a friend, for example.

Her subjects all had damage to a part of the brain called the hippocampus, a known center of memory. And while they couldn’t fully imagine a new experience, they could describe specific details, like the sand on a beach. This suggests that the hippocampus may organize all mental images—including memories and fantasies—into coherent pictures.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.