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Shagun Chopra


Korsakoff: A permanent loss of data

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a month ago
a month ago
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Description and Explanation

The lost mariner is about the case of an old man, Jimmie G, who does not have the typical capacity to gain new experiences, with the outcome that he can scarcely remember anything for longer than two or three seconds.

Image result for the lost mariner It was evident that at some point in Jimmie's life his memory was working ordinarily, which is the reason Jimmie could recall his childhood, Truman and so forth. Jimmie’s long term memory was not totally impaired as he knew his birthday, name and hometown. He also narrated his early life to Sacks, including his time serving in World War II. Sacks followed the standard procedure and formulated a hypothesis that Jimmie’s memory was impaired due to excessive alcohol consumption and that he was suffering from Korsakov’s syndrome. Sacks ran a few tests on Jimmie that confirmed his hypothesis that Jimmie was an intelligent man but at the same time was incapable of remembering any events beyond the 40s. Jimmie's condition left him unequipped for making even the most simplest associations with other individuals thereby altering his perception of “self” and making him feel alienated and less “alive”. A case very similar to that of Jimmie G was found: he was a 59-year-old African-American man who was taken to the emergency room after he fell from the second floor. He made up imaginary stories such as that of Obama dying and him returning from California . He would also repeat words and phrases, and he also showed signs of extremely poor short-term memory. On the other hand “well-learned memories for common objects and semantic fluency remained grossly intact” (Spiegel & Lim, 2011). The patient’s prior reports indicated that he was dependent on alcohol. Another case is that of a 52-year-old man who had a history of severe alcohol abuse. The patient was completely perplexed with respect to time, place and people, was peevish, confused and angry; he additionally had visual and sound-related hallucinations, misidentified individuals, and had serious retrograde and anterograde amnesia and confabulations. While looking at all the three case studies it can be witnessed that

Korsakoff’s syndrome’s effect would gradually deepen over time and that it usually leads to people losing memory after a particular instant of time. As seen in the first two cases the patients had memory of common things like presidents and places .ie., they retained their old semantic memories. But would forget things that have happened a few seconds or minutes ago and in addition, they also had no sense of time. Korsakoff syndrome happens due to chronic alcohol abuse resulting in retrograde and anterograde amnesia. The person suffers from thiamine deficiency (Vitamin B12) and experiences a loss of episodic memory. While the old semantic memories remain, the person fails to create new ones as in the case of Jimmie G who had recollections from childhood. Despite loss of memory Jimmie’s intellgence remained intact. In addition to memory impairment the patients often create fictious memories (Confabulations) as in the second case of the African-American man (Kopelman, Thomson et. al, 2009).

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Since Jimmie was alienated from his closest friends and family his condition would only worsen with time as it was noticed that Jimmie had become incapable of any new emotional connections. Jimmie says that “I haven’t felt alive for a very long time.” indicating that he had lost his sense of self as a result of which he would become numb and soon lose the will to live. He could also engage in self-harm due to the confusion and chaos in his mind as a result of cognitive detioriation. Since it’s a condition that worsens with time the patient’s congnitive detoriation will also increase with time. Control While doses of medicine and treatments do help a person recover, a condition like Korsakoff requires changes in a person’s lifestyle and concept of self. Korsakoff is not just limited to a person’s brain, it affects the day-to-day life of people and care should be taken in accordance with the same. If Jimmie is continued to be kept in a well-structured and soothing Korsakoff: A permanent loss of data environment he might become capable of new learning. At the same time he should also be kept away from looking at himself as that gives him a shock which is not good for his brain. Even though his condition made him incapable of making new associations with people, he would gain a sense of peace through connections with the church and therefore should be allowed to spend more time in the chapel as it allowed him to reconnect with the world and adapt to his neurological condition.

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Michael D. Kopelman, Allan D. Thomson, Irene Guerrini, E. Jane Marshall; The Korsakoff Syndrome: Clinical Aspects, Psychology and Treatment, Alcohol and Alcoholism, Volume 44, Issue 2, 1 March 2009, Pages 148–154, Papparigopoulous, T., Tzavellas, E., Karaiskos, D., Kouzoupis, A., & Liappas, I. (2010). Complete Recovery from Undertreated Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome Following Aggressive Thiamine treatment. Sacks, O. (1998). The man who mistook his wife for a hat: And other clinical tales. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. Spiegel, D. R., & Lim, K. J. (2011). A case of probable Korsakoff’s syndrome: a syndrome of frontal lobe and diencephalic structural pathogenesis and a comparison with medial temporal lobe dementias. Innovations in clinical neuroscience, 8(6), 15-9.

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