Totally Cerebral: Think Pop Culture Gets Amnesia Right? Forgetaboutit!
- Source: Transistor
Many depictions of amnesia in TV, movies, and cartoons are just plain wrong — some laughably so.
Host Wendy Suzuki talks with Neal Cohen, a professor and neuroscientist from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. For 20 years, Cohen has used bad examples of amnesia that abound in pop culture as well as the rare accurate depictions as a powerful tool in his wildly popular undergraduate course about amnesia in pop culture. Cohen entertains and educates his students with examples from TV shows and films as diverse as Futurama, Memento, and 50 First Dates, and we’ll hear some of those clips.
Inside the Episode:
Suzuki and Cohen illuminate some of the core features that define true amnesia, and discuss a classic finding that Cohen published early in his career with Larry Squire, another expert on memory. They made the key distinction between “knowing how” and “knowing that.”
Most amnesic patients cannot learn or remember what happened at a particular time or in a particular place. In fact, patients with severe amnesia are no longer able to learn or remember anything about what has happened to them. However, Cohen and Squire showed that the same amnesic patients could learn and remember how to do things, like work a lock,, or solve a puzzle with blocks, or swing a racquet. Thus, they could learn and remember how to do things, but not that those things had happened.
At the end of every class, Cohen asks his students to write their own short screenplay about a character with amnesia. If you feel inspired after listening to the episode, send us an amnesia screenplay synopsis in the comments section!
Transistor is a transformative STEM podcast from PRX. Three scientist hosts — microbiologist Christina Agapakis, astrophysicist Michelle Thaller, and neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki — report on curiosities and current events in and beyond their fields. Sprinkled among their episodes are special science stories from around the globe. Presented with support from the Sloan Foundation.