The New York Times has just published an article on dissociative fugue, the poorly understood memory disorder where people seem to forget who they are.
It has many similarities to conversion disorder where people seem to experience a disability (such as paralysis) despite having nothing medically wrong with them.
Both conversion disorder and dissociative fugue are often linked to trauma and they are often thought to arise from emotional difficulties being pushed from consciousness and expressed in other ways – all outside the conscious control of the patient.
Brain imaging research has shown that these sorts of states are likely to be different from people purely ‘faking’ the same thing, but in the clinic, fakers might be still quite hard to detect and extensive neuropsychological testing may be required to do so.
Also, there’s always the worry that there is some medical reason for the problem that just hasn’t been found yet.
Despite these difficulties, some researchers are investigating these conditions, which may provide vital clues to understanding the conscious mind.
The article discusses some famous cases of dissociative fugue and deal with some of the differences with amnesia after brain injury.
It also mentions that a play about the condition, entitled Fugue, is running at New York’s Cherry Lane Theatre until April 22.