The hazards of good memory

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 14 April 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:913

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  1. Mukaila Raji, assistant professor and director (
  1. Memory Loss Clinics, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas

Forgetting is bad. Remembering is always good. Or so I thought until I met patients with unexpected benefits of memory loss. “It will be a blessing if I lose my mind,” one patient said. “I'll probably be happy not knowing I owe anybody!” Andy Rooney wrote, in his 1982 book, And More by Andy Rooney, “Sadness is one of the principal ingredients of memory, and there's just so much of that [that] anyone wants to bring on himself on purpose by sitting around remembering.” All this raises an important question in my mind. Is forgetfulness nature's way of enforcing forgiveness, the letting go of past wrongs and sorrows, the memory of which can only sadden the ageing mind, with little chance for reconciliation and closure?

In pondering this question I wonder whether the evolutionary reason for the high prevalence of Alzheimer's disease among those aged 80 or …

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