The Bourne Connection

Amnesia (from Greek ἀμνησία from ἀ- meaning “without” and μνήμη memory) is a deficit in memory caused by brain damage, disease, or psychological trauma.[1] Amnesia can also be caused temporarily by the use of various sedatives and hypnotic drugs. Essentially, amnesia is loss of memory. The memory can be either wholly or partially lost due to the extent of damage that was caused.[2] There are two main types of amnesia: retrograde amnesia and anterograde amnesia. Retrograde amnesia is the inability to retrieve information that was acquired before a particular date, usually the date of an accident or operation.[3] In some cases the memory loss can extend back decades, while in others the person may lose only a few months of memory. Anterograde amnesia is the inability to transfer new information from the short-term store into the long-term store. People with this type of amnesia cannot remember things for long periods of time. These two types are not mutually exclusive. Both can occur within a patient at one time.

I was going to start out with something different but I can’t remember what it was … badump pa ching


In the Bourne Identity we find a man suffering amnesia. He cannot remember who he is and begins to rebuild or reconstruct his life with what knowledge he does retain and any new knowledge gained. He lost only personal memories of himself. So he wakes up one day and does not have a history or identity. He is, for all intents and purposes erased. A fully trained blank.

If he were able to slowly regain his memories all would be well but as we know, that is not how it works out. He remains blank until suffering another trauma. What if he had regained his memories within days of waking up? Would he have been a blank slate during that time, or simply ‘just recovering’ for a bit? What if it only took hours to regain the memories? Would he have been considered the blank slate in that time? What if it took only a few seconds to regain his memories? Would he have had amnesia?

How long does it take you every morning to regain your memories? Are you a blank during that time? Are you sure?

If you think about it, you wake up blank but with quick easy access to your memories and full body integration your brain quickly puts everything back in place… it quickly integrates both memory and current sensory data. You go from blank to yourself, identity regained in just seconds. The process is not smooth all the time. Think about experiences you’ve had waking up which were not easy or pleasant. Did you experience instant reintegration? Did it take a few minutes for every process to come back on line?

When you are not conscious, you are not you. A blank with the amazing ability to reintegrate memories and body experience. In effect, your brain reprograms itself every time you regain consciousness.



Here’s a bit from someone that might come to exactly that conclusion. It’s a bit of a read, but I recommend it. She wonders if we are but I say we are, over and over and over again. When the simulator in our heads starts running our brains reprogram themselves to be us.

Science writer Jennifer Ouellette explores the emerging science of the self, a body of research that examines not just who we are, but also…if we are.

  1. This is beyond amazing! Thanks for sharing.

    • heh! Share ? Thanks for reading and commenting. Come back and let us know how that resonates with you a few days from now 😉

      • Ahaha! It is quite trippy to be honest. I just love this neuroscience stuff.

        • The next few days as you wake up, I wonder what you’ll think

          • Yeah. I suddenly feel like a robot when the article puts it that way… that our memories literally reprogram once we wake up. We are “blank” during sleep. And also… how our memories are really just memories of our last memory of a certain event or situation. So crazy!

            • It is kind of crazy but it explains a lot when you realize that we are simply our memories … think about hypnotism, if you can alter a memory then YOU become a different person with a different reality than you had before. Scary stuff.

              • It is pretty scary.

  2. Reblogged this on Girl, Uninterrupted and commented:
    Are we really who we think we are? :/

  3. I’m remembering that episode in Person of Interest where they realize the machine has arranged to have its memories manually re-entered each day …
    New Scientist did an issues about this sometime last year or the year before, I think. Fascinating stuff. It’s lovely that philosophy, psychology and biology/neurology are meeting in this question. (And I always love me a nice bit of koine Greek!)

    • I think philosophy is having a bit of a difficult time with the whole thing. Emergent consciousness kind of confirms materialism philosophically. It also seems to lock the cage on qualia and the hard problem of consciousness.

  4. Part of the article reminded me of the nature or nature debate, especially as she was adopted.

    I have problems remembering where I am when I wake up. I don’t know if it’s an age thing or because we flit between our flat in Gib and our finca in Spain.

    Mind you, Partner gently woke me up the other morning and said ‘it’s 7.30’ (we normally get up at 8/6.30 to get ready for him going to work). I panicked I couldn’t possibly walk the dog twice, him walk the other dog, cook his breakfast, feed the dogs, make his food to take to walk in ten minutes. Then I realised it was Sunday. The only reason for waking me up was to take out the little dog. I think I need a new hard drive.

    Interesting title, btw. Have you read the books? Once I had read the books, I was disappointed with the films. Except you couldn’t capture the complexity of the books in 90/120 mins.

    • I have to admit I’ve not read the books. I don’t have time for leisure reading. The movies really hit home for me in a number of ways though.

      I’ve worked odd shifts and had days that I didn’t know what day it was when I woke up. I travelled so much for work that I once called the AT&T operator and tried to order room service breakfast. The place between consciousness and not is an interesting place to me. We are not ourselves in those moments and that makes me think. I’ve spent many waking moments manually trying to reconstruct where I am, what is going on and so forth… to reintegrate the memories and environment etc. There is a distinct moment for me when I realize that all is as it is supposed to be according to what I know so I know that before that moment everything was not and my brain was working hard to put it all together for me.

      When you are half awake it is more interesting because all the information is not integrated. A whisper can sound like a scream and your body can feel like it is floating etc. Whatever ‘mind’ is, the explanation must account for all these odd moments. I think this accounts for a lot of them.

      travelling between two time zones is enough to disorient you on a regular basis. When your last memory is of another time zone, it takes purposeful effort to reorient yourself in the new time zone… even when your accommodation is the same as last time.

      Thank you for commenting. I hope you enjoy my writing and ideas.

    • lanceleuven
    • April 15th, 2014

    Interesting discussion. Personally, I’m a blank slate until halfway through my morning coffee. I then become a half-blank slate, which continues until the end of the day. Then the process begins again. But I guess we’re all different.

  5. Do our memories make us who we are? Of course they do. Imagine waking up without them as some people do all day, every day. Most of us can’t even begin to contemplate a life without them… but it is a reality for some. Great post!

    • Thank you.
      I know my mother is now losing her memories. It made me think about this and how we use memories.

  6. Interesting read…you may have heard of a patient referred to as H.M., who, as a drastic measure against epilepsy, had major parts of his limbic system surgically removed back in 1953. He died in 2008, but due to his anterograde amnesia inflicted by the surgical procedure, he basically spent the last fifty years of his life thinking it was 1953:
    Another famous example is that of Clive Wearing, who has both anterograde and retrograde amnesia: He has a diary that continuously has the same sentence repeating itself over and over again: “I am now really, completely awake.”

    • If I had to say I was afraid of something it would probably be not being able to remember who I am or what is going on around me.

      • I think memory loss is the worst kind of loneliness god forgot to find a cure for:S

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