Oliver Sacks on music and amnesia

In this week's issue of The New Yorker, neurologist and science writer Oliver Sacks tells the incredible story of Clive Wearing, an accomplished musician and musiciologist who in 1985 suffered a brain infection that ruined his memory, limiting his recall to just the previous few seconds. Amazingly though, Wearing is able to remember two incredibly important things: how to make beautiful music and that he loves his wife. Wearing's wife Deborah wrote about her experiences with her husband in the book Forever Today: A True Story of Lost Memory and Never-Ending Love. He has also been the subject of documentary films. I'd imagine that Sacks's forthcoming book, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, includes more on Wearing along with other similarly extraordinary stories. From the New Yorker article:

When I asked Deborah whether Clive knew about her memoir, she told me that she had shown it to him twice before, but that he had instantly forgotten. I had my own heavily annotated copy with me, and asked Deborah to show it to him again.

"You've written a book!" he cried, astonished. "Well done! Congratulations!" He peered at the cover. "All by you? Good heavens!" Excited, he jumped for joy. Deborah showed him the dedication page: "For my Clive." "Dedicated to me?" He hugged her. This scene was repeated several times within a few minutes, with almost exactly the same astonishment, the same expressions of delight and joy each time.

Clive and Deborah are still very much in love with each other, despite his amnesia. (Indeed, Deborah's book is subtitled "A Memoir of Love and Amnesia.") He greeted her several times as if she had just arrived. It must be an extraordinary situation, I thought, both maddening and flattering, to be seen always as new, as a gift, a blessing.

Link to The New Yorker, Link to Mind Hacks post for more background, Link to buy Wearing's Forever Today, Link to buy Sacks's Musicophilia