Amnesia affects ability to imagine the future

There’s an interesting New Scientist news report on recent research suggesting that people with amnesia have difficulty imagining the future, suggesting this ability relies on our capacity to remember past experience.

The study was led by Dr Eleanor Maguire and involved five participants with dense amnesia caused by damage to the hippocampus on both sides of the brain.

Researchers asked the participants ‚Äì and a control group without amnesia ‚Äì to imagine several future scenarios, such as visiting a beach, museum and castle, and to describe what the experience would be like. They then analysed the subjects’ narrations sentence by sentence, scoring each statement based on whether it involved references to spatial relationships, emotions or specific objects.

All but one of the amnesiacs were worse at imagining future events than the participants in the trial who did not suffer from amnesia. Their visualisations of future events were more likely to be disorganised and emotionless. “It’s not very real. It’s just not happening. My imagination isn’t‚Ķwell, I’m not imagining it, let’s put it that way,” one patient told researchers during a trial.

Apparently, the research will be published in the science journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences but I’m damned if I can find it at their website or on PubMed, but presumably it will appear shortly.

Link to NewSci story ‘Amnesiacs struggle to imagine future events’.
Link to write-up from Nature News.

One Comment

  1. Posted January 17, 2007 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    I’m currently reading Jeff Hawkins’ “On Intelligence” (only began reading), and this finding curiously chimes in whith his ideas about the brain as a “predictive memory” mechanism. Impaired memory means impaired prediction.


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