Washington U in St. Louis2014-07-10 1:05 PM

Individuals with episodic amnesia are not stuck in time


•Individuals with severe episodic amnesia, e.g., KC, retain many kinds of temporal consciousness.
•KC and others with episodic amnesia grasp the order and flow of time and can locate their lives in time.
•KC and other amnesic individuals disavow hedonistic and fatalistic attitudes about time.
•Amnesic individuals discount the future like controls, and KC arguably anticipates regret.
•Individuals with episodic amnesia are not stuck in time.


The metaphor that individuals with episodic amnesia due to hippocampal damage are “stuck in time” persists in science, philosophy, and everyday life despite mounting evidence that episodic amnesia can spare many central aspects of temporal consciousness. Here we describe some of this evidence, focusing specifically on KC, one of the most thoroughly documented and severe cases of episodic amnesia on record. KC understands the concept of time, knows that it passes, and can orient himself with respect to his personal past and future. He expresses typical attitudes toward his past and future, and he is able to make future-regarding decisions. Theories claiming that the hippocampus plays an essential role in temporal consciousness need to be revised in light of these findings.

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Washington U in St. Louis

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