Now I Am Really Awake for
the First Time Ever
Clive Wearing contracted a viral infection of the brain at the age of forty-seven, and now, twenty-three years later, has one of the most serious memory impairments ever recorded. He has no memory of the events of the previous day and no memories of his past. Clive doesn’t remember that he has adult children, and it takes no more than a few seconds for him to forget what someone has just told him. He keeps a daily diary, in which his entries almost invariably begin with exclamations like: “Now I am really awake (first time).”
If working memory connects the thoughts of the moment with the actions of the next, the long-term memory ties together our days and our lives. We use working memory to keep a sequence of instructions in our head, while we use the long-term memory to remember where we live. The long-term memory stores not only factual data on how the world is made up and all the knowledge we painstakingly acquire through study but also the personal experiences that define us as individuals.
A deficient long-term memory presents obvious obstacles to schooling, but it also impacts our daily lives. Take Jon, for example, a thirty-year old man living in a suburb of London. Jon’s