When the brain, an overall fragile organ, is subjected to a certain amount of trauma, many long-term effects can be seen with regards to cognition, and specifically long-term memory. Though all humans have very individual brains, and thus brain chemistries, it is the nature of the processes the brain follows that is effected, and can subsequently be significantly damaged.
With specific reference to the Week 3 Online lectures, it was shown how truly limited our short-term memories are, as well as the process the brain has to go through to fluidly move a thought or memory between short and long-term memories. Considering the case of Mr. Anderson, it is clear he lost significant cognitive abilities during his accident. In many cases this results in loss of memory of learned skills, especially newly learned skills, as well as a memory of the event itself. This is the case for Mr. Anderson–and can certainly sheds light on the specific processes with regards to cognition that were damaged in his accident.
The first clue as to what was damaged in Mr. Anderson’s accident is his inability to recollect the incident, nor discern any difference in himself before and after the accident. It is clear that aspects his nondeclarative memory–specifically with regards to the procedural aspect–were damaged, as well as linked parts of his declarative memory, specially the episodic aspect, were both damaged in his accident (Week 4 Online Lecture).
It is clear that the procedural aspect of Mr. Anderson’s nondeclarative memory was severely damaged in his accident. This part of the overall long-term memory system called the procedural memory, embedded in the nondeclarative system, is primarily responsible for cognitive memories. Mr. Anderson, in proving that he could correctly use the objects he was presented with, but had significant trouble recalling the names of the objects, shows a disconnect in his cognitive and motor skills–both embedded in procedural memory (Week 4 Online Lecture).
Interestingly enough, however, it seems that the other aspect of his nondeclarative memory, the reflexive section, remained relatively unharmed. This can be explained by considering the functions of the reflexive long-term memory system, as storing “classical and operant” information. This involves stored information involving ingrained processes the brain is used to after intense repetition of cognition. This is a very important concept, because it explains two enigmatic behaviors with regards to Mr. Anderson.
He was unable to recall any of his training in digital art, despite being an incredibly talented graphic artist. Mr. Anderson, however, had recently learned the techniques of digital art, and was traditionally a sketch artist. His ability to work in his traditional method was in no way affected by the cognitive impairment caused by his accident. This is more than enough proof that the reflexive portion of the long-term memory remained unharmed, while the procedural was damaged severely (Week 4 Lecture Notes).
With regards to the affect the accident had on the declarative portion of his long-term memory, this was also conflicted to a lesser extent. While his semantic memory seems harmed very slightly, and with regards to cognition, the semantic memory is very difficult to completely lose. On the other hand, his episodic memory seems irreparable–he cannot even remember the accident itself.
An alternative line of work may be an architect of some kind, as his abilities to sketch seem unharmed, and his use of digital technology could be limited.
Goldstein, E. B. (2008). Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research, and everyday experience. Australia: Thomson Wadsworth.
Week Three Lecture Notes
Week Four Lecture Notes