Between Your Ears #07: “How Realistic is Amnesia in the Movies?”

Main Topic: Hollywood is notorious for taking scientific topics and twisting them to their advantage, and bending the facts to create a “more interesting” narrative. Amnesia is no different. In this episode, we start by defining memory as the ability to recall or recognize previous experiences. There are two different types of memory: declarative memory (memory of facts and events) and procedural memory (how to perform an act like riding a bike). We then move on to talking about specific types of amnesia. Retrograde amnesia is the loss of memories you already had (typical Soap Opera type amnesia). Anterograde amnesia (also referred to in Hollywood as short-term memory loss) is the inability to form new long-term memories. Contrary to what Hollywood may seem to suggest, anterograde amnesia is much more common in real life. We then move on to talking about three movies that deal with anterograde amnesia: 50 First Dates, Finding Nemo, and Memento. We wrap up the episode talking about H.M., a real-life case of anterograde amnesia.

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Sources

  • List of Films Featuring Amnesia [Link]
  • Memento on Wikipedia [Link]
  • 50 First Dates [Link]
  • Finding Nemo ‘Gets Amnesia Right’ on BBC News [Link]
  • “Amnesia in the Movies” [Link]

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