Anterograde Amnesia

  • Category: Psychology
  • Words: 544
  • Grade: 94
Do you remember what you just did five minutes ago? The answer will most likely be yes. These are the types of memories that we all take for granted every day. In the hit movie Memento, Leonard Shelby cannot remember anything he does a few moments after he does it. Leonard suffers from a rare condition known as anterograde amnesia.
        In the film, Leonard suffers brain damage through an attack in which he attempts to save his wife from being raped and murdered. The last thing that Leonard can remember is his wife lying on the bathroom floor. Everything after this incident, he cannot remember for more than a couple of minutes.
Anterograde amnesia is the inability to make or recall new memories; although all memories prior to having anterograde amnesia are still intact. This condition is usually caused by damaged to the hippocampal formation. The hippocampal formation is a region of the brain that controls your memory. The hippocampal formation includes the hippocampus, dentate gyrus, subiculum, entorhinal cortex, and parahippocampal gyrus. Experiments with monkeys have shown how important the hippocampus and the hippocampal formation are to memory. Zola-Morgan did memory recognition tests with the monkeys. "Zola-Morgan and his colleagues have shown that bilateral lesions of the hippocampal formation cause an enduring impairment of memory-loss" (Adams, 1996, p. 372). Adams (1996) found that certain memories stay intact. Such memories include: long-standing social habits, automatic motor skills, words and language, and visual impressions (pictures of people places and things that are stored in the brain). Adams (1996) stated that the reason why these were not affected when damage is done to the hippocampal formation was because through repetition, they are "filed" away in other parts of the brain.
Ramachandran (1994) did a study with patients that suffered from anterograde amnesia. He showed the patients the word "ELATED." Moments later, they do not remember being shown anything. He then showed them the root "ELA-" and asked them to complete it with the first word that comes to mind. The patients were more likely to write the work "ELATED" than any other. "This shows that they are able to acquire new information through experience, although, they are not aware they possess it" (Ramachandran, 1994, p. 116).
The scene in the film Memento, where Leonard suffers brain damage during the attack on his wife, would go along with the research shown above. He perfectly remembers his wife lying on the bathroom floor "dying." Towards the end of the film it is revealed that his wife did not die that night. She actually died later on. Leonard thinks she died that night because it is the last memory he has. He would not remember her dying later on because he would not remember anything after his accident.
In conclusion, the film Memento, depicts someone who suffers from anterograde amnesia, which is the inability to remember new things. The film is interesting because it starts at the end of the story and works its way backwards. I would highly recommend it to anyone.


        Adams, R. D. (1996). Principles of Neurology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
        Ramachandran, V. S. (1994). Hippocampal Formation. Encyclopedia of Human Behavior 1, 113-123.
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