PSY 352 Week 2 Final – Understanding Memory Loss

19 May No Comments

Understanding Memory Loss

PSY 352 Cognitive Psychology

Memory, and living out one is a challenge that most people never even think about. This paper will explore living without memory as presented in the movie Before I Go to Sleep, the examples of individuals in the documentary Living without Memory, and how these two scenarios compare and contrast. Understanding what a traumatic brain injury, (TBI) is and take a look at post-traumatic amnesia (PTA). The evidence that is provided will be corroborated by evidence provided by neuroscientist, and psychologist. Exploring what works for the rehabilitation of the memory will be investigated. In conclusion, it will be discussed how accurate is the truth portrayed about memory loss, the diagnosis, symptoms and the treatment in the movie selected.

What if you awoke one morning, as you have every other day of your life, but this day was different and did not know who you were, where you were and were to experience a complete loss of memory? It is hard to fathom, the truth is that over one hundred thousand individuals have a loss of memory due to an accident, resulting in a TBI, and it can happen to anyone. “TBI is defined as an alteration in brain function, or other evidence of brain pathology, caused by an external force, This, therefore, includes loss of consciousness or a decreased level of consciousness, other neurological and neuropsychological features, and abnormalities on investigation, especially neuroimaging,” (Friedland & Swash, 2016, p.1068). In the movie, Before I Go to Sleep the main character, Christina, a forty-year-old woman, is in good health, experiences a traumatic assault to her head, awakens in a hospital without any memories, and is diagnosed with atypical psychogenic amnesia. The symptoms are, that she can not remember any personal data about herself, has no awareness of knowledge of self, or who they or anyone else is. Christina has memory throughout her day concerning what she had experienced throughout the day, would go to sleep at night, and in the morning could not remember anything from her past. Her memory disorder may occur for an unknown period of time, in ranging for hours to days or years. Throughout the movie she was given pictures to look at to see if her memory could be jogged into remembering, and she was able to glimpse some visual picture in her mind of the memory. Christina would have dreams that would awaken her about the traumatic event that happened to her, and she would be able to hold that memory for the day. She was taken places by her husband and psychiatrist to see if it would evoke a memory in her, she would be able to remember bits and pieces about her life. In her case she has been without memory at least eight years, (Joffe, Marshall, Scott, & Lerner, 2014). Christina was accused by her psychiatrist as having confabulation, “the heightened suggestibility associated with hypnosis, it makes the rememberer more willing to label something as a memory, it also makes one highly susceptible to suggestion of others,” (Riegler & Robinson-Riegler, 2012, p.8.2).

The movie, Before I Go to Sleep, did an accurate job in depicting atypical psychogenic amnesia, except they did present that she had memories from and up to her twenties, after her twenties she had no memory, but the film failed to present any evidence of these past memories coming present, (Joffe et al., 2014). I compared and contrasted Christina’s, behavior as depicted in the movie to Debbie, in the Living without Memory documentary, who suffered a brain hemorrhage, lost her memory, however she could only retain about 45 minutes of memory span before the information was lost and could not be retrieved without assistance outside herself. Debbie and Christina used a list that was maintained by their caretakers as a reminder of what they needed to do next. (Hardy, 2003). I found it interesting that both women were able to remember what the item on the list meant. I explored the emotional states of the two women Debbie has a remarkably jovial attitude, she could not remember if she was happy, sad, mad, or glad. She did remark that when she went to school to school she used to work at that she felt, “lost.” She could recognize the faces and names of her coworkers, and sing songs with children without problems. Christina was shocked each day upon arising, confused, scared, and angry at times. There are many types of TBI’s, and the resulting amnesia states. Both of these women had some type of bleeding within the brain which in Christina’s case was due to blunt force trauma to the head. In Debbie’s case the information was limited as to the cause of the hemorrhaging in her brain. As a result of this trauma to the head in both cases, a change of consciousness occurred, which is the loss of memory. Consciousness is the awareness of external and internal events. (Robinson-Riegler & Robinson-Riegler, 2012).

Repetition of the daily task was important for both women, getting into and following a good habit each day aided in some ability to maintain some self-sufficiency, however in both cases that were short lasted. Debbie would attend a weekly baking class, and Christina visited with her psychiatrist on a daily basis with a phone call to remind her to use her camera to film herself throughout the day and play it back the next day so that she would have some memories even if outside of herself. It is recommended that when creating programs for memory rehabilitation that a combination of internal and external strategies be used like: self-instructional training, diaries, and list. The study conducted on Neuropsychological Rehabilitation concluded that the combination of internal and external strategies may teach easy behaviors connected with the use of a diary, magnify the skills of self-regulation, and improve awareness. With this practice of self-instruction members of the study were able to decide which strategy to use to compensate for the memory loss, elevate mood states, raise self-esteem, and reduce lack of success. In addition, when self-regulation is improved it may result in additional gains in cognition, like better attention span, and reduced interruption of distractibility. (Ho, Epps, Parry, Poole & Lah, 2011).

In cases of brain injury due to an accident it is recommended that a “retrospective assessment of post-traumatic amnesia (PTA) must take into account factors other than traumatic brain injury (TBI) which may impact on memory both at the time of injury and subsequent to the injury,” (Friedland & Swash, 2016, p.1068). The idea of severe post-traumatic adaptation of brain task includes a state of confusion, which can be detected by a Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS with a score of 14/15 included with a dissipation of memory for happenings following the injury PTA or instead of a prominently less, straight away before the accident, known as retrograde amnesia. PTA is given special significance in the medicolegal evaluation following TBI, as it has been largely accepted as a reliable and objective measure, even after being evaluated well after receiving the TBI. If a person has no recollection of an accident ex pose fac to of a PTA is the only impartial measure of the severity of the TBI, (Friedland & Swash, 2016).

Who am I without a memory? Would I be confused and create confabulations because of it? Would I remember a flashback and ever believe it to be a truth? Would I know who I could trust, do I trust myself? These are all questions that come about as a result of memory loss. Yet the person portrayed in the documentary Living without Memory appeared happy, and somewhat better off without the pain that memories have for each of us who can remember. I once heard a phrase that a mind is a terrible thing to waste, and I now know that memory is a terrible thing to lose. Throughout our lifetime we will experience memory problems, hopefully not to the extent that Debbie or Christina experienced. The hope that researchers will continue to study how our minds and memory function work, the rehabilitation methods will match the research efforts. It was evident that the persons who are caretakers are in need of assistance, to be able to understand how to best support the person who has lost their memory, with the use of technology, diaries, and list. I hope I never forget this important message.


Friedland, D., & Swash, M. (2016). Post-traumatic amnesia and confusional state: Hazards of

retrospective assessment. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, 87(10), 1068–


Hardy, S. (Producer). (2003). Living without a memory  [Video file]. Retrieved from

Ho, J., Epps, A., Parry, L., Poole, M., & Lah, S. (2011). Rehabilitation of everyday memory

deficits in paediatric brain injury: Self-instruction and diary training. Neuropsychological

Rehabilitation, 21(2), 183–207. Retrieved from


Joffe R, & Marshall L, & Scott R, & Lerner A, (2014) Before I Go To Sleep, USA, Scott Free


Robinson-Riegler B., & Robinson-Riegler, G. L. (2012). Cognitive psychology: Applying the

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Strayer, D. L., & Johnston, W. A. (2001). Driven to distraction: Dual-task studies of simulated driving and conversing on a cellular telephone. Psychological Science, 12(6), 462-466. doi:10.1111/1467-9280.00386

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