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interesting day...

Earlier today I had a conversation with someone who, it turns out (halfway through the conversation I find out), lost 75% of her memories in an operation at some point in the past. That is so weird to think about. But fascinating. Reminds me of the movie Memento. Also fascinating that she chose to have the operation, even knowing the likely outcome. (Although the alternative was to remain in a non-functional, essentially vegetative, state for the rest of her life, and she seems quite happy and enjoying life now so I guess it was the right decision.) She said she sometimes meets people who say "don't you rememeber, we dated for a year after high school?" and she has no idea who they are. That's got to be the most frustrating thing in the world.

About 30 minutes after this conversation, I got interviewed on the radio, my first time on the air... another thing to mark down on my list of stuff I've always wanted to do. True, it was just KZSC, the college radio station at UCSC, but it was still really fun. And the DJ was awesome. Two other members of our club, Nick and Max, were also with me; and James Hughes, who will be speaking on campus this Thursday (May 25th--don't forget!), called in remotely to be interviewed. After he was done with Hughes, he asked us about our club, the Santa Cruz Futurists. I don't know how it went over to the listeners, but the DJ seemed to like us. We'll definitely come back next time we get a big speaker. Hopefully, it will end up on the KZSC podcast archives so I can post a link to it here for downloading, but it looks like they might only archive certain special days, so I guess I shouldn't hold my breath.

I would have mentioned this beforehand so I could say "tune in and listen", but we got invited to go on the show very last minute and I just didn't have time. Anyway, I can't wait till James Hughes gets here next week. He seems like a really cool guy over the phone.

Oh, and don't worry... I'll post my "singularity summit part four" soon enough. I've just been very busy the past couple days.

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
lars_larsen
May. 20th, 2006 09:19 am (UTC)
I've lost some of my memory due to lightning strike. I dont know what I forgot though, because I dont remember it. You cant really miss it if you dont know what it is. I do have a sense I'm only part of the person I was before.

Memory is imperfect. Its how neural networks work, if we didnt forget, we could never learn. Most of the brain's job is in filtering out useless information and making abstractions. What are we? Are we the product of our past? Or are we the product of our flimsy and fallable record of it?
sid_icarus
May. 20th, 2006 11:53 pm (UTC)
Do you feel you're a subset of who you were before, or part of who you were before plus some new stuff?

Agreed on the second paragraph. I'm charmed by my brain's mutations and lossy compression schemes.
lars_larsen
May. 21st, 2006 12:47 am (UTC)
No, I dont think there is any new stuff. I'd wager a guess that I'm about 85 or 90 percent the person I once was. I run into people I dont remember who I used to know well sometimes. If I hadn't run into them, I wouldnt know. So the "percentage of my former self" keeps dropping as these events happen. I still remember lots of things about my past, I dont have entire decades missing or anything like that. Just things here and there forming gaps. Your brain doesnt store things linearly like a tape recorder after all.

A friend of mine had brain surgery. She forgot how to ski! She had to learn all over again! But somehow she never forgot how to walk, but she did forget how to talk. I mean, she could talk but it sounded like she had a really bad cold and was drunkenly slurring her speech at the same time. She learned how to talk exactly the way she used to in about 3-4 months. Maybe the brain makes distinctions between instinct and learned behavior. Or maybe the surgeon did :)
ratkrycek
May. 21st, 2006 06:37 pm (UTC)
Memory... fascinates me.

I've heard of people losing memory due to things like lightening strikes; more specifically, I've often heard that people lose the memory of the strike itself. It must be... interesting, to know that something was there, where you think a memory should be, and then it's not.

I love the book "The Dead Zone" and the movie "Memento."

And the first time I had Versed, I grilled the nurses and doc pretty hard as to just exactly how it did it's amnesia thing. They didn't know, but someone later suggested perhaps it made your brain temporarily not "record" memories... but sometimes with Versed the amnesia goes back a few minutes from when you had it. Not always, though.
spoonless
May. 21st, 2006 07:04 pm (UTC)

And the first time I had Versed, I grilled the nurses and doc pretty hard as to just exactly how it did it's amnesia thing.

Versed, wow. I hadn't heard of it before, but I just looked it up. Pretty interesting. That could have some pretty interesting uses as a plot device in a movie. Instead of the bad guys blindfolding someone while they're driving them to the secret hideout, they could inject them with Versed and drive them there. A potentially really scary use for it that comes to mind... a rapist grabs a jogger in the night, injects them with Versed and rapes them, then takes off. I wonder if the victim would be able to identify the attacker. I'm surprised I've never seen a movie where this happens.
ratkrycek
May. 21st, 2006 08:39 pm (UTC)
Oh, yeah, it would be great in a book or movie. It's definitely gone into my little black book for things like that. :)

As for why it hasn't been used before, that I don't know. One of my nurses basically told me it would be the ultimate date rape drug. And in your jogger scenario, it's very likely s/he wouldn't even remember the attack or rape very much, if at all!

Another thing about Versed is how very little it takes to do its thing. When I've had it, the doc usually gives it as a Demerol/Versed cocktail, so he'll ask for 50 to 75 (cc's) Demerol, and 2 or 3 Versed. and right before the lights go out in Georgia, my last known thought is usually along the lines of, "That'll never be enough. I'm going to remember the whole thing."

I only remember anything from one time, though, and that was a different doc.

Another drug that, to my mind, is woefully underused in fiction is succinylcholine, which I saw used a bit in the 80's by people like Robin Cook, and maybe Andrew M. Greeley, and then it kinda disappeared until it showed up in Tom Clancy's The Teeth of the Tiger in 2003, maybe? It's a shame, really, because it's another beautifully clean drug with potential.

And yes, your question about whether she or he could (legally?) be able to identify their attacker is pretty interesting. Suppose the rapist was someone known to the victim, someone he/she saw every day, and maybe wore a particular cologne or something, and the victim suddenly started getting apprehensive whenever they smelled it (which would be fairly often, considering in this scenario the person is possibly a coworker or even friend), but they wouldn't know why.

Where does memory live?
lars_larsen
May. 21st, 2006 07:34 pm (UTC)
Versed is werid stuff. But it doesnt last very long at all.

I remember the strike (intense pain) and passing out, but right after I came to again I didnt know what happened for a minute or so, only that it hurt. Then I remembered what happened. I also didn't have the coordination to stand up or do anything other than roll around and scream. I was just angry, I wanted to fight back against whatever did this to me.

Then when I gained my orientation again I just felt like I had to do something about it, but I didnt know what. So I just paced around the house and looked at the burns on my hand and foot occasionally.

It numbed one of the nerves in my hand for about a month. But the feeling came back. I also couldnt hear anything at all for a few days.
spoonless
May. 21st, 2006 06:53 pm (UTC)

I've lost some of my memory due to lightning strike. I dont know what I forgot though, because I dont remember it. You cant really miss it if you dont know what it is. I do have a sense I'm only part of the person I was before.

Again, very interesting. Since you're the second person I've run across this week to have this issue, I wonder if it's more common than I'd realized.

It sounds weird to hear about, but I guess it's not that much different from the way normal memories work. My memory of childhood is extremely spotty. And even through the teenage years, I have trouble accessing memories unless they're triggered specifically by something and I'm sure there are many which will just never get triggered again so they might as well be forgotten. I've often wondered if human memory works sort of like a caching system... where the more you access a particular memory the stronger it gets (it gets put in some high level cache buffer), and if you never access it it slowly fades away until you can't remember it anymore. Except I've never been sure whether I completely lose stuff or I just don't know how to access it any more. I guess for all practical purposes, it's the same thing anyway.

I wish I understood this stuff better! Cogsci is really cool.
lars_larsen
May. 21st, 2006 07:38 pm (UTC)
Yes, if you dont reinforce your memories you'll loose them. They atrophy. A lot of my programming skills have atrophied over the last few years.

I have a friend who was subjected to prolonged childhood sexual abuse. She cant remember her entire childhood. The only reason she knows it happened is that it continued into the beginning of her memory (after about age 12).

I have post traumatic stress disorder as well (lucky guy aren't I?) and I completely blocked out the trauma for 5 years. I didn't forget it, I just refused to recall it until I was forced to because something reminded me of it. I have since learned to think and talk about it at a level of abstraction that allows me to deal with it without seriously freaking out. Sort of like a second memory that I use instead of the original. The original is lucid and terrifying, the abstraction is more like a narrative than an actual re-experience.
wanton_adonis
May. 21st, 2006 09:39 am (UTC)
eh? well, some of us wouldn't mind not remembering who we dated in HS.
spoonless
May. 21st, 2006 06:40 pm (UTC)
And some of us just wish we had been able to get a date in high school. :)
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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