November 21, 2011

"[A]mnesiacs can lose all memory of their past lives, and yet remember music."

"When British conductor and musician Clive Wearing contracted a brain infection in 1985 he was left with a memory span of only 10 seconds...."
But despite being acknowledged by doctors as having one of the most severe cases of amnesia ever, his musical ability and much of his musical memory was intact....

"If you give Clive a new piece of music he sight reads it and plays it on the piano, but you can't say he's learnt it," [said his wife].... "Clive has no knowledge of ever having played the piano or whether he still can."...

"Even though he's had a piano in his own room for 26 years he doesn't know it until it's pointed out to him."


m stone said...

The fragility of life---even one function---is stunning.

Deborah Wearing is a true saint.

Pogo said...

Clive should try tattoos.

Though it didn't work all that well in Memento.

edutcher said...

Music isn't cognitive, I would imagine.

You don't think about it, so this may be part of the solution.

MeTooThenMail said...

This reminds me of HM.

My former and late mentor had studied HM.

One of our fears in performing epilepsy surgery was turning our patients into another HM.

Many years ago I had a patient who was an amnesiac - a stunningly beautiful and once brilliant young woman who survived herpes simplex encephalitis -but was left with uncontrolled seizures and severe anterograde and to a lesser degree retrograde amnesia.


Every day is a holiday.

Or not.

Just sayin'.

M.E. said...

Oh my goodness, I used to show a video about Clive in my Psych classes! Was just recently wondering what happened to him. Will follow the link next. He had a devastating, utterly devastating brain injury from mosquito-borne encephalitis, if I recall correctly. Ah - I just looked at the previous commenter and he also used the word "devastating". Indeed.

The Crack Emcee said...


My sister just uploaded one of her Motown tracks - that she forgot about!!! It's hilarious:

She sounds like Michael in a J5 outtake,...

A. Shmendrik said...

Imagine only remembering Vicky Lawrence's "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia".

Chip S. said...

He might be one of the happiest married men in the world. He gets some strange every single time.

jimspice said...

I saw a documentary on this gentleman. He has no memory of his wife or being married, but becomes overjoyed when she visits. Extremely sad and heartwarming at the same time.

And I would think an amnesiac would need be Hindu to lose memory of past lives.

Chip S. said...

@jimspice--Nice observation. It's always satisfying when the data conform to the theory.

new york said...

Alzheimer patients often retain and are comforted by music memories, long after everything else is gone.

MeTooThenMail said...


Actually, we used to (darkly) joke that HM had actually attainted Nirvana.


Like I said, every day is a holiday.

Or not.

Sounds like Hell.

Or this:

"There's food in my mouth!"

Joe said...

[A]mnesiacs can lose all memory of their past lives, and yet remember pornography.

Ah, the joy of "can".