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Me and My Memory:

Listen to Me and My Memory

Monday 22 Jan 2007 3.45pm (original TX Wednesday 26 July 9.30am)

Most of us take our memories for granted. In this series you'll meet six people who don't have that luxury.

In the first programme we hear from Claire who suffers from a condition called prosopagnosia - the inability to recognise faces. Her condition came about after falling prey to viral encephalitis - an inflammation of the brain caused by a virus.

It meant she was unable to recognise the faces of her children, husband or even herself. But it's not just faces that Claire struggles with. The condition has robbed her of her own sense of identity and of the close relationships she once enjoyed with friends and family - something we all take for granted: "Facial recognition is the tip of the iceberg - it's about what that person means to you and the nature of your relationship with them."

In this intriguing programme we learn how both Claire and her husband Ed have come to terms with the condition and what might be going on in her brain to cause it. With help from clinical psychologist Bonnie-Kate Dewar, Claire practises a series of learning techniques which are steadily helping her to overcome the worst effects of this condition and regain her sense of self.

Related link:

The Oliver Zangwill Centre for Neuropsychological Rehabilitation - provides rehabilitation for the individual cognitive, social, emotional and physical needs of people with non-progressive brain injury

Comments on programme one

This page is now closed to new comments

Ingrid R Guerci
Hello Claire, you are NOT alone! I, too, am a survivor of HSE. I got it in December 1995 when I was 45 years old. I have memory problems but not quite as bad as yours. I run an encephalitis survivor's email support group and Wendy Station in Canada runs another support group. We are now an incorporated, nonprofit organization. It would be great if you and yours (and anyone who is reading this) would check it out and join. Believe me, it is nice to know you are not alone with this illness.

I'm 39 and had encephalitis 6 years ago. I rely on my wife for my memory now eg "what did I say to him last time I saw him and when was that?" It means I can talk to people I already know. My family like to believe there isn't a problem because I can still remember my childhood, denial makes life easier for them. My wife's family is the main source of support because they can see the problem.

I have battled with memory loss over many years. In 1964 I lost a baby at 6 months with eclampsia toxemia and my memory for 6 months. I find that huge parts of my past cannot be recalled. I now have fibromyalgia which consists of in part short term memory loss. I managed to complete a 3 year B/A joint hons in 2004 but I find that my memory is very poor. Given that I am now 61 I find that in general people are neither understanding or sympathetic about my condition, and to some memory loss is "very convenient" as they put it. They obviously do not realise that memory loss can be very frightening as there is nothing at all that can be done to bring it back. Or if there is I do not know about it.

Peter Gornall
I have a similar problem but not nearly as serious as Clare. It's not so much recognition of people but it does happen from time to time. I cannot recall at all many wonderful holidays and many other things which can be quite distressing for those around me.

I was interested to hear of the link between depression and a failure to recall particular happy memories. Your program told us that a depressive person might remember a generally happy period or type of activity, but not specific days or events. My question is: how would such specificity of memory help to prevent depression if the happy incident recalled could not be repeated - for example, in the case of a bereaved person? However happy the original event, the memory of time spent with someone who has since died must surely be unhappy.

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