Nothing irritates me more than tabloid sensationalism of a sensitive story.
In today’s Daily Record newspaper, a story appears about young Adam Shad, a teenager who has gone missing in the Loch Lomond area of Scotland.
According to various reports, Adam suffers from memory problems, due to a recent head trauma. By all accounts, he has a low mental age, suffers from blackouts and has difficulty sleeping.
Effectively, he has reduced mental capacity, and poor memory skills. He may be 15 years old, but he presents as around age 10 or 11.
However, the Daily Record have wholly misrepresented the poor boy and his anxious family by comparing his circumstances and mental condition to the character of Leonard Shelby in the Christopher Nolan movie Memento.
In fact, the fictional Leonard suffered from a very rare, trauma-induced condition known as anterograde amnesia – where the sufferer has an inability to process new memories.
Short-term memory in anterograde amnesia sufferers is generally unaffected, and although the individual can often present as very plausible and coherent – they simply cannot process new memories.
Tasks, on the other hand are an entirely different matter – since the brain’s ability to learn rote-fashion is processed in a different part of the brain from the portions that can be affected by anterograde amnesia.
Anterograde amnesia generally affects one of three main areas of the brain: the hippocampus and associated areas in the medial temporal lobes, the basal forebrain and the diencephalon.
Adam suffers from something entirely different – although the various media reports haven’t specified anything beyond learning difficulties – but it certainly isn’t anterograde amnesia.
Let’s hope he’s found safe and well.
Update at 1630BST: Adam has been found dead.