Clive Wearing

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Clive Wearing (born May 11, 1938 ) is a British musicologist , conductor and keyboardist who has been suffering from practically complete amnesia since 1985 .


Wearing was considered a respected expert on early music before he fell ill with severe and prolonged anterograde amnesia in 1985 . As a result, his brain is no longer able to store new experiences for more than a few minutes.

Wearing fell ill with herpes simplex encephalitis on March 29, 1985 . His hippocampus was permanently damaged - the part of the brain that is largely responsible for processing sensory impressions for permanent storage. The temporal and frontal lobes were also damaged. The former houses the amygdala, a part of the brain that is largely responsible for the control of emotions.

As a result of this illness, Wearing suffered total amnesia. Since the part of the brain that is responsible for transferring memories from short to long-term memory has been damaged , it is unable to store new memories permanently. As soon as his short memory span has expired after a few minutes, his perception begins again. He no longer remembers what happened a few minutes ago.

He also has few conscious memories from before his illness. For example, he knows that he has children from a previous marriage, but cannot remember their names. The love for his second wife, Deborah, whom he married in 1984, is unbroken. He greets her effusively every time they meet - believing that he hasn't seen her for years, even if she has only left the room for a glass of water.

Although Wearing has a very short, conscious memory span, its abilities are not impaired. He can easily play the piano or conduct a choir even though he has no conscious memory of his musical training, as his procedural memory was not affected by the infection.

To understand his situation, Wearing began to keep a diary . Countless pages are filled with entries about his daily routines.

8:31 am: Now I'm awake.
9:06 am: Now I'm completely awake.
9:34 am: Now I'm actually awake.

Earlier entries are usually crossed out - Wearing forgets within minutes that he made an entry and is convinced that the earlier entries are incorrect. The type of his entries has not changed significantly over two decades. His wife wrote about a book titled Forever Today (dt. Caught in the moment ).


  • Deborah Wearing: Trapped in the moment. The story of an amnesia - and an invincible love . Goldmann, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-442-31088-1 ,
  • Oliver Sacks in: Musicophilia. Tales of Music and the Brain, pp. 187-213,
    • German edition: The one-armed pianist. About music and the brain . Rowohlt, Reinbek 2008, ISBN 3-498-06376-6 .

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