Brain damage that wipes out the past also takes out the future

Kerri Smith in Nature:

Screenhunter_02_jan_16_1917Imagine a day on the beach: the hot sand, warm sunshine and aquamarine waters. Easy for you and me. But near impossible for some amnesiacs, according to new research.

When Eleanor Maguire, a neuroscientist from University College London, UK, asked volunteers to imagine a fictional new experience, they had no trouble conjuring up detailed and enticing scenes of forests, castles or beaches. As a memory specialist, she wondered what would happen if she asked patients with amnesia, who have a well-established deficit in remembering their past experiences, to do the same thing.

They couldn’t. For these patients, an imagined beach scene sounded like this: “As for seeing I can’t really, apart from just sky… I can hear the sound of seagulls and of the sea… um…. the only thing I can see is blue.”

“They really do live in the present — they can’t richly imagine the past or future,” Maguire says. She and her team report their results in Proceedings of the Academy of Sciences.

More here.