View Full Version : Medical info on Amnesia

08-22-2018, 03:52 AM
I have a female protagonist in her mid-twenties who suffered a severe trauma. She loses a good portion of her past memories-- she has memories up until age 16-17 but past that she can't recall most of her life.

What kind of medical diagnosis would she have? What specific damage would she have to the brain and what kind of impact to the head/ disease or trauma to the body would cause this kind of memory loss?

I'm trying to stay away from "Hollywood amnesia" so also let me know if this kind of amnseia is unrealistic or impossible. I've been reading as many articles as I can find and found a couple reports of people loses 30+ years of memories and forgetting they were married altogether from things like car crashes and even surgery, so I'm hoping I'm on the right track.

Thanks in advance for your inputs!

08-22-2018, 09:54 AM
There are different kinds of amnesia depending on which bit of the brain is damaged. If she had the accident at age 16-17 then was unable to form new memories since the accident, that would be a horribly debilitating condition called retrograde amnesia. I'm not sure what it would be if someone lost memories from a particular age only (e.g. had the accident age 30, lost memory from age 16-30). I'm not a neurologist (just have a jack of all trades bachelor degree that included neurobiology) so you probably would have to ask a neurologist this question. You may be able to find case studies in scientific journals.

The kind of injury that can cause brain damage would be any head injury. More specifically, its bleeding and swelling inside the skull that causes the damage. The skull is a closed container so if there is any bleeding or swelling in the brain, the pressure inside the skull increases, and this can damage the brain. It's fairly random which bit of the brain is affected by the damage - but which bit of the brain is damaged will cause very specific patterns of disability (you would need to consult medical/university sources to get more info about the different parts of the brain).

Such an injury is life threatening and requires urgent medical attention (in the UK they often send out the air ambulance for severe head injuries as air ambulance doctors can start treatment before you even get in the helicopter). There's no specific kind of head injury that would cause this. Anything where you get hit hard on the head can do it. People have died from a single punch and people have survived much worse knocks to the head with no bleeding/swelling or brain damage. You can get bleeding/swelling of the brain even where the initial head injury doesn't cause a loss of consciousness, or you can get a lucid interval, where you lose consciousness, regain consciousness, seem normal, then deteriorate later. This is why in A&E if you're sent home after a head injury you get cards that tell you to dial 999 if you get any of these symptoms... the symptoms on the list are signs that there's bleeding/swelling in the brain. If they think you're more at risk from brain bleeding, they'll keep you overnight for observations. All this is because you can have what seems to be a minor concussion turn into brain bleeding. More severe concussion is more likely to result in brain bleeding, hence keeping more severe cases in overnight.

A second hit to the head when you already have a concussion increases the risk of brain bleeding/swelling, as I know well from playing rugby - they have to be very careful to make sure that any player with concussion is removed from play immediately and you're not allowed to return for several weeks.

Hope that helps somewhat. Sorry I can't help with the other parts of the question.