Revisiting Clive

Yesterday I posted a video clip about Clive Wearing. Here is the first part of a different documentary about Clive. This video goes more in-depth about his condition. Clive is sometimes referred to as the man with the shortest memory. Not only were his two hippocampi destroyed, but also surrounding areas of the his temporal lobes as well as portions of his left frontal lobe. He also remembers very little from before his illness, which is quite rare; this condition is called retrograde amnesia. Clive lives in an ever-present now, without connection to past or future. Other parts to this video can be found on YouTube.

The Unusual Case of Clive Wearing

Clive Wearing is a 70 year old British man who contracted herpes simplex encephalitis in 1985. The virus destroyed his hippocampi bilaterally (as well as surrounding areas). He has complete anterograde amnesia and can only remember up to about 20 seconds. He retained the ability to play the piano and conduct a choir (which he did previously to his illness); this is because this procedural memory involves different areas of the brain, including the basal ganglia and the cerebellum. I’ll revisit this case over the coming days. Meanwhile, here is a clip from a BBC production that presents part of Clive’s story.

Hippocampus Anatomy Video

To follow up my previous post on the hippocampus, here’s a video posted by drbobrd on YouTube. He uses a model of a brain to explain some brain anatomy, including the hippocampus and fornix.

Video site for watching surgeries

I’m quite fascinated by human anatomy, especially neuroanatomy. The human body is amazing; it’s something of a miracle that it develops and works as well and as often as it does. The brain is very complex with up to 100 million neurons (that’s also an estimate of the number of stars in our galaxy) and 100 trillion synapses (connections between neurons)! 100 trillion is an estimate of how many individual cells the entire human body has. We have as many synapses as cells in the entire body. The brain is complex and beautiful. It has symmetry but individuality.

I discovered a website that allows you to watch some surgeries live (or to view archives of past surgeries). is informational and free. For those interested in neurosurgeries – everything from scoliosis surgery to tumor resection to deep brain stimulation – here is the direct link. Most of the videos are available in Flash format for web-viewing. Many are also available to download as a video podcast. Warning – please don’t watch the videos if you get queasy easily; if you feel queasy while watching one, take a break and do something else for a while.

I hope my readers enjoy this site as much as I have in the past and will continue to in the future.

Brain Injury Video

Here’s a decent video about brain injury that does a good job of showing how brain injury affects people.

Unfortunately, we don’t have the ability to completely reverse the effects of acquired brain injury. Therapy and rehabilitation can help but if the injuries are severe, completely normal functioning is unlikely ever to return. Prevention is the best medicine in this case; it is unfortunate that prevention is not always possible.The parts of the brain that are most often affected with brain injury are those that have to do with memory.

Another common outcome of brain injury is cognitive slowing – people just don’t seem to think or move or act as quickly after brain injury as they did before. This slowing is due in part to the diffuse axonal injury that occurs (the connections between brain cells {neurons} are broken or twisted as the brain compresses and stretches) with traumatic brain injuries. Even non traumatic brain injuries (e.g., carbon monoxide poisoning) can result in overall cognitive slowing (this slowing often greatly improves over time with mild to moderate brain injuries).It is also fairly common to see personality changes in someone with a recent brain injury – this is mainly due to damage to the frontal lobes. These changes in personality can be the source of great frustration and concern for family, friends, and everyone around the injured person. Dealing with a severe brain injury requires a lot of loving, patience, and care.