Feeds

Could Drew Barrymore's memory loss in 50 First Dates really happen?

Boy meets girl, girl loses memory, boy gets girl

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

SANS - Survey on application security programs

(Asked by Nikki Long of Waltham, Massachusetts)

In the romantic comedy film 50 First Dates (2004) starring Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler, Barrymore’s character suffers short-term memory loss as a result of a head injury in a traffic accident. Each morning she wakes up without any memories whatsoever of anything that happened after her accident. Sandler’s character falls in love with Barrymore. very day he must persuade her to fall in love with him.

In the film, Barrymore is told by her neurologist, played by Dan Aykroyd, she suffers from “Goldfield’s Syndrome”. The problem is that there is no “Goldfield’s Syndrome”. Hollywood invented the name although this form of short-term memory loss certainly exists. According to Dr. Catherine Myers of the Memory Disorders Project at Rutgers University in New Jersey, the film conflates two real memory loss syndromes.

The first is Organic Amnesia (OA). This is short-term memory loss due to brain injury. The most obvious symptom is rapid forgetting. New information fades from memory within a few minutes. Old memories, such as those from childhood, are retained as well as they are in people normally. In OA, the brain damage is permanent, so is the syndrome.

The second is Psychogenic Amnesia (sometimes called Traumatic Amnesia) (PA). This is the loss of one’s identity and personal history without obvious brain injury. It is believed that PA results from psychological stress (for example, traumatic events). PA is exceedingly rare. Some researchers question whether it even exists at all given the fact that some patients may fake amnesia to avoid personal difficulties and many patients suddenly recover all their past memories. However, some patients never recover past memories and have to start new lives with new identities.

Dr Myers points out that there is a third "general class of amnesia" sometimes called “Limited Retrograde Amnesia” (LRA). LRA is a temporary loss of the ability to store new memories as a result of brain injury. For example, a person in a car crash may hit their head and lose memories of the few minutes before and after the crash. This commonly happens to boxers, football players, and others who engage in contact sports where they may suffer a blow to the head. Dr Myers says that LRA is not particularly life-impairing since old memories are fine as is the ability to form new memories - only the limited period is lost forever.

50 First Dates is a bit of a departure from the usual Hollywood motif of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl. Instead, boy meets girl, girl loses memory, boy gets girl. It could happen, but there’s no “Goldfield’s Syndrome”. Dr Myers adds that “If there ever was a Dr Goldfield, he obviously didn’t publish his syndrome in the correct journals!”

Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?
Recruiting now for charity starvation diet
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.