People with episodic amnesia have sense of time

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Washington: Are people with episodic amnesia really "stuck in time" as is widely assumed? No, asserts a new research.

It has generally been assumed that people with episodic amnesia experience time much differently than those with more typical memory function. However, recent research disputes such claims.

"It is our whole way of thinking about these people that we wanted to bring under pressure," said study co-author Carl Craver, professor of philosophy at Washington University in the US.

"There are sets of claims that sound empirical, like 'these people are stuck in time'. But if you ask, have you actually tested what they know about time? The answer is no," he said.

The case in study was that of Toronto native Kent Cochrane who was left with severe brain damage and dramatically impaired episodic memory after a motorcycle accident in 1981.

Cochrane, known as KC, could no longer remember events from his past. Nor could he predict specific events that might happen in the future.

A series of experiments convinced Craver and his co-authors that although KC could not remember specific past experiences, he did in fact have an understanding of time and an appreciation of its significance to his life.

For example, KC understood that events in the past have already happened, that they influence the future, and that once they happen, they cannot be changed.

Even more interestingly, KC's understanding of time influenced his decision-making.

If KC truly had no understanding of time, Craver argued, then he and others with his type of amnesia would act as if only the present mattered.

The article appeared in the journal Neuropsychologia.

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