In Chapter 5 of The Prince and the Pauper, “Edward’s” behavior is very concerning to Henry VIII and other individuals within the palace. Why can he all of a sudden no longer remember details about his life?! Today our current event blog explores…
SUDDEN MEMORY LOSS
In the chapter, Henry and other members of his staff test “Edward” (actually Tom) to see what he can and cannot remember. He’s able to remember Latin and who his father is, yet he is unable to remember French and other details about his life. Why could this be? Henry comes to the conclusion that it is due to overstudying, and that “Edward” needs to take a break from school in order to destress and regain his memory. Obviously we as readers know that it is not actually Edward experiencing memory loss, but actually an entirely different person. But this still led me to a few questions: What causes sudden memory loss? Are there real-life examples of people who have experienced this sensation? Would a scenario like this be possible in real life? Keep reading or watch the video below to see what I found out.
Amy Losak, 64 at the time of one of her bouts of memory less, has experienced sudden memory loss TWICE in her life: once in 2016 and once in 2020. In her experience, she had hours pass of which she had no recollection. She forgot why there were boxes everywhere (they were doing a home renovation). She also asked why there was laundry on the bed (she forgot that they had been in the process of folding laundry).
This memory loss was attribute to Transient Global Amnesia. People who experience this tend to lose their short-term memory, and it can last anywhere from minutes to hours. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), possible causes of this could be low oxygen levels, migrains, pain, stress, and more. There are not really any treatments, but it is a pretty rare condition to experience, and most people only experience it once.
Christine Hyung-Oak Lee
Christine Hyung-Oak Lee initially experienced her memory loss suddenly when she was 33 years old. She suddenly experienced a stroke due to a blod clot in her brain. As a result of this, she lost her short-term memory as well as her ability to access connections between long-term memories.
In order to account for this, she needed to write everything that happened to her down in a notebook. Even simple tasks like cooking became difficult for her. It took her years for her brain to somewhat return to normal. Ultimately, she was able to form connections between memories again, as well as the ability to transfer short-term memories to long-term. She wrote a memoir called “Tell Me Everything You Don’t Remember: The Stroke That Changed My Life” about her experience.
Though Henry Molaison’s story isn’t quite current (his story is from 1953), he was truly influential in the field of brain study, so I felt it would be important to include. He was 27 when he experienced memory loss. In order to help cure his epilepsy, Henry underwent a “psychosurgical” procedure where two holes were drilled in the front of his skull. Then the front portion of his brain, the amygdala and part of the hippocampus, were sucked out because it was believed this was the part of his brain causing his seizures.
After this procedure, he lost his ability to story and retrieve new experiences. This fasincated brain scientists and Henry (known to scientists as H.M.) became the subject of many studies. This ultimately led to many advances in the areas of brain science, especially related to memory.
But Can Stress Cause Memory Loss?
As you probably noticed, most of those examples had a clear cause to the memory loss (stroke, brain surgery). Transient global amnesia can be caused by stress, but typically it doesn’t last beyond a few hours. So what other research is out there regarding stress causing memory loss?
There was a 2016 study that used mice to test this very idea. They studied mice in a maze. Mice were tasked with completing a maze that they had previously learned. But then other agressive mice were introduced to the scenario, and this caused the mice to experience high stress. The mice that were stressed out by the agressive mice were no longer able to remember the way out of the maze. The mice that did not have stress from an aggressive mouse were able to remember the route just fine.
The researchers noted that the stress in the mice caused their immune system to attack their brain, leading to brain inflammation and prevention new brain cell growth. This resulted in problems with memory loss. They also found that these effects were long-lasting; the stressed-out mice still exhibited these behaviors for four weeks after the experiment.
Though the test has not been replicated it humans, it does seem that Henry VIII wasn’t totally crazy when suggesting that stress caused “Edward” to lose some memories.
Some Movies Including Memory Loss
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