Ed. Note: Our newest contributor, Sponsored by V8, is going to be a doctor in a few years. Until then, he is spending his days learning all of the things that you need to know in order to become a doctor. Some of these things are pretty cool, and he has offered to start sharing them with us. In response to his offer, we said “Okay!” Follow him on twitter @SponsoredbyV8.
Hello, friends. Someone made a poor decision and is letting me train to be a doctor. Then a few more people made poor decisions and now you’ll have to suffer through me sharing stories, disorders, and facts that I find particularly interesting, strange, terrifying, or hilarious. I might do this daily, I might not. I’ve found medical school makes me a real bastard about honoring time commitments that aren’t medical school. Either way, should be fun while it lasts. So here goes:
Don’t trust chronic alcoholics’ memories. Not just because of the obvious (they’re drunk) but because they tend to worry more about getting wasted than eating food. In truly severe cases this can cause Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. It’s a vitamin deficiency (B1 if you’re interested) that causes neuronal death in the mamillary bodies, dorsomedial nucleus of the thalamus, and the hippocampal formation (mamillary bodies are two little bumps on the underside of your brain that, if you squint hard enough, look like boobs. Hence “mamillary bodies”). The rest of those structures don’t have fun nomenclature stories but they all sit around the brainstem/brain junction. As a very general rule, anything near that is even more vitally important than the rest of your brain.
Anyway, the weird effect of that neuronal destruction is an inability to form new memories. Turns out those particular regions are the location for consolidation of long-term declarative memory from short-term memory. These individuals may seem to be mentally normal but if you ask them about the past they’ll do what’s called confabulation and string unrelated memory fragments into a new synthetic memory which they’ll swear is true.