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Dissociative fugue
April 21, 2007 5:04 PM   Subscribe

When a Brain Forgets Where Memory Is. Interesting article on dissociative fugue, the poorly understood memory disorder where people seem to forget who they are. [Via MindHacks.]
posted by homunculus (45 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
This weekend is the last chance to see a play about the condition, Fugue, at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York.
posted by homunculus at 5:07 PM on April 21, 2007


Apparently Bach suffered from this disorder, and it was during his memory lapses that he stopped composing fugues and instead produced many of his lesser-known foxtrots.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:15 PM on April 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


Also via MindHacks, Neurophilosophy looks at the connection between belief in alien abduction and reincarnation, and memory errors.
posted by homunculus at 5:18 PM on April 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


I Think With My Brain Now
posted by homunculus at 5:21 PM on April 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


And if you are in this "brain" thing, you must read this book.
posted by zouhair at 5:27 PM on April 21, 2007


Metafilter: you are in this "brain" thing
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:29 PM on April 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


To understand the big picture, give it time -- and sleep: Study shows that learning requires a period of 'off-line' processing
posted by homunculus at 5:47 PM on April 21, 2007


And if you are in this "brain" thing, you must read this book.

Ah yes. Oliver Sacks. The man who mistook his patient for a million dollar book deal.
posted by kisch mokusch at 5:52 PM on April 21, 2007 [4 favorites]


Lost Highway discussion with Charlie Rose and David Lynch, relevant-ish.
posted by geoff. at 6:02 PM on April 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


I Think With My Brain Now

My quest is finally over. Thank you internet, and farewell to arms.
posted by Alex404 at 6:04 PM on April 21, 2007


Interesting. My ex-gf's father both had an alien abduction experienced and then went into a fugue and travelled hundreds of miles away, starting a brand new life.
posted by empath at 6:05 PM on April 21, 2007


i think there's been an epidemic of fugue state in the justice department. someone should investigate.
posted by Hat Maui at 6:09 PM on April 21, 2007


Your hands are dry cuz you used Jerkins

That little throw up thing in my mouth just happened.
posted by phaedon at 6:22 PM on April 21, 2007


I've always been fascinated by dissociative fugue. The most perplexing question to me is, if you've lost all your memories, what motivation do you have to do anything? Most of these stories revolve around people losing their memories, and travelling somewhere else... but why are they propelled to travel, and where are they going?
posted by bjork24 at 6:29 PM on April 21, 2007


Alfred Bester used this idea in a great short story called The Four-Hour Fugue
posted by Grod at 6:40 PM on April 21, 2007


My quest is finally over.

I'm glad I could assist you in your spiritual journey. Namaste, bitch.
posted by homunculus at 6:46 PM on April 21, 2007


('Bitch' should have linked here. Gah!)
posted by homunculus at 6:48 PM on April 21, 2007


My mother has had fugues a couple of times. Both times I was a young teenager. We lived alone... it was very frightening for both of us. She lay in bed and didn't recognize anyone, didn't even know who she was. Lasted a couple of days. Brought on entirely by stress.
posted by unSane at 7:11 PM on April 21, 2007


and, by the way, my mother is the least neurotic, least attention-seeking person you could wish to meet.
posted by unSane at 7:13 PM on April 21, 2007


But of course she is, unSane. If she could express her neuroses and her need for attention in a more conventional manner, she wouldn't need to go into a fugue.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:27 PM on April 21, 2007


...(will favourite any Charlie Rose post, regardless) thanks geoff.
posted by acro at 7:37 PM on April 21, 2007


people seem to forget who they are

Sounds kinda...refreshing.
posted by telstar at 8:12 PM on April 21, 2007


A story on a Dallas man who had this happen to him. He walked away from his house -- and walked and walked, for three straight weeks until someone recognized him from media reports. There's a missing Milwaukee man whose family is pinning its hopes on a similar lucky stroke.
posted by dhartung at 8:26 PM on April 21, 2007


What?
posted by trip and a half at 8:34 PM on April 21, 2007


yes I said yes I will What?
posted by Falconetti at 8:40 PM on April 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Player piano.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:54 PM on April 21, 2007


We may have inherited our brain from an ancient worm

Praise Shai-Hulud!
posted by homunculus at 9:46 PM on April 21, 2007


Here's another nifty book for folks who liked the Oliver Sacks stuff. This one's a little more solidly neurology-oriented, but it's still meant for a lay audience. I'm reading it now, and I'm loving it.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 11:41 PM on April 21, 2007


Great post, thanks!

Note to cortex: you're name-checked in that "I Think With My Brain" song!
posted by languagehat at 5:57 AM on April 22, 2007


This condition is like the opposite of what the character in Memento has. He can only remember his biographical info and little else. I can google this of course, but I'm wondering if there are real life instances of that as well and if so if they are also precipitated by traumatic events, as the movie suggests.
posted by sneakin at 5:59 AM on April 22, 2007


sneakin: don't forget (zing!) Clive Wearing.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:37 AM on April 22, 2007


And homunculus, thanks for posting this.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:37 AM on April 22, 2007


Sweet link, goodnewsfortheinsane, thank you. Not to mention sweet quote/ref.!
posted by sneakin at 8:55 AM on April 22, 2007



I was kind of surprised that she used the computer metaphor of unsaved information being lost forever-- rather than the more apt one of deleted information being still there, but unfindable.
posted by Maias at 1:25 PM on April 22, 2007


Harsh, ikkyu2.
posted by pointilist at 6:52 PM on April 22, 2007


I was kind of surprised that she used the computer metaphor of unsaved information being lost forever-- rather than the more apt one of deleted information being still there, but unfindable.

How can you tell the difference, experimentally?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:24 PM on April 22, 2007


I'm wondering if there are real life instances of that as well

anterograde amnesia? Yes, it happens. Only a matter of time till someone used it in a movie plot, I thought, though I never imagined someone would be... quite that imaginative with it.

and if so if they are also precipitated by traumatic events, as the movie suggests.

I'm only aware of cases brought on by physical damage, either an accident or recent brain surgery, or drugs, but I don't know if stress could cause it as well.
posted by dreamsign at 2:04 AM on April 23, 2007


But of course she is, unSane. If she could express her neuroses and her need for attention in a more conventional manner, she wouldn't need to go into a fugue.

Yes, perhaps she could get a Metafilter account and spout shit about other people's relatives there instead. Whaddyathink?
posted by unSane at 9:36 AM on April 23, 2007


I think my brain hurts.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:53 AM on April 23, 2007


If anyone's still reading, prompted by this post I just saw Unknown White Male, and I found it confusing and disappointing.

Has anyone else seen it? Does anyone doubt its veracity?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 11:59 AM on April 24, 2007


Yes, I saw UWM about a year ago before it got distribution. I also found it suspect, although also compelling.

I think there was some substantial pieces left out of the jigsaw. Some parts read as fiction to me.
posted by unSane at 6:20 PM on April 24, 2007


I think you've misread me, unSane. I take care of people with dissociative states pretty frequently. Often the first step to getting better is understanding why the problem comes about in the first place.

Frequently the folks I see are so disabled by the time they get to me, that I have to remind myself and others: just who is it exactly that this happens to? Quite often it's folks who were the hubs of their communities - the stable, super-sane people whom everyone loves. In fact, everyone loves them and trusts them so much that these are the people to whom the community brings all their problems. I've seen this phenomenon again and again.

Thankfully for most folks with the problem, a few months of therapy or other stress-management techniques can bring about major improvements.
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:23 AM on April 25, 2007


I didn't misread you, ikkyu2. You jumped to the conclusion that my mother's fugue state was caused by, quote, her neuroses and her need for attention without knowing anything at all about either her (beyond my thumbnail description) or the circumstances.

As you might imagine, I am pretty familiar with the whole situation and it had nothing to do with either neurosis (a questionable concept) or need for attention. Acute stress was certainly involved, though, and the charactersation in your last post seems very accurate to me.

In a similar situation, my mother-in-law, another coper, couldn't remember her own phone number after she was diagnosed with leukaemia.

I agree that from my own experience it is the 'stable, super-sane people' that this tends to happen to. I'd see myself as a candidate in some circumstances.
posted by unSane at 9:48 PM on April 25, 2007


Well, it's a good thing for your mother that she has you around, then.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:10 PM on April 25, 2007


From my own experiences I would guess that the copers get it worst because they (I include me) really have no ways of handling things they can't control. They are used to 'dealing with' everything and anything and 'handing it over to someone else' is just not on their radar. When my mother had her fugue, I was eleven or so and she was a single mother with no money and very isolated. A bunch of things, financial, social and personal, crept up on her and the incident was triggered by an incredibly stressful (for her) drive though Central London. At the time we lived in rural Lincolnshire and she'd never done anything like it. She was physically and emotionally exhausted but her life gave her no opportunities to just step back and let someone else take the strain. The fugue was the direct result, pretty much the mental equivalent of an overtired, overstressed muscle going into spasm to protect itself.

That's my take, anyway. There was certainly never any doubt that it was totally genuine. My mother was more frightened by it than anyone else.

It happened once more a couple of years later, but after that my mother learned not to put herself in those positions and the rest of us in the family learned not to let herself put herself in those positions, and it's never recurred, although there have been times when my Mum has felt it coming on, and taken the step back that she didn't feel she could the first time.
posted by unSane at 9:04 PM on April 26, 2007


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