Fragmentation of memory

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Fragmentation of memory is a memory disorder in which the patient is unable to attach memories to specific locations or times. The impaired person can remember events, but cannot pinpoint when the events happened, either absolutely or in relation to other events. This can occur even for relatively recent events.

The impaired person usually suffers from physical damage to or underdevelopment of the hippocampus. This may be due to a genetic disorder, or be the result of trauma, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.[1] Brain dysfunction often has other related consequences, such as oversensitivity to some stimuli, impulsiveness, lack of direction in life, occasional aggressiveness, a distorted perception of oneself, and impaired ability to empathize with others, which is usually masked.

There is frequently a link between dissociative disorders and memory fragmentation. Fragmentation of memory is common in two dissociative disorders.[2]

  • Dissociative or Psychogenic Amnesia[3] is not to be confused with general amnesia, in which the sufferer is unable to recall whole periods of time, perhaps of several years' duration. In the dissociative version, there is failure to recall specific events, usually involving memories pertaining to the trauma itself, in particular. The disorder also relates to the emotional state of the mind upon experiencing trauma,[4] so that, at times, while the person will be able to remember the specifics of the events (date, time, location, people involved, etc.), the strong emotional ties to the experience become fragmented in the creation of the memory.
  • Dissociative Fugue normally revolves around a specific journey taken by the person suffering from the disorder. They can travel great distances and have no recollection of having done so. These unremembered trips are usually the result of the individual trying to escape an unbearable situation, and many times while traveling, the person unknowingly suffers some degree of identity distortion or even assumes a completely new identity.[5] One of the unique characteristics of this disorder is that upon completing the trip, the sufferer normally remembers it and all the details associated with it, but while the events are happening, s/he has no recollection of time passing or where s/he physically is.


  1. ^ Rubin, D. C. (2004). "Reliving, emotions, and fragmentation in the autobiographical memories of veterans diagnosed with PTSD.". Applied Cognitive Psychology 18 (1): 17–35. doi:10.1002/acp.950. 
  2. ^ Barlow, David H. (2009). Abnormal Psychology: an Integrated Approach. Belmont. CA: Wadsworth Publishing. pp. 191–192. 
  3. ^ Bartram, G. (2008). "Memory, Amnesia and Identity in Hermann Broch’s Schlafwandler Trilogy". German Life & Letters 61 (2): 215–230. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0483.2008.00420.x. 
  4. ^ Candel, I.; Merckelbach, H.; Kuijpers, M. (2003). "Dissociative experiences are related to commissions in emotional memory". Behaviour Research & Therapy 41 (6): 719. doi:10.1016/s0005-7967(03)00016-0. 
  5. ^ van der Hart O, Bolt H, van der Kolk BA (2005). "Memory fragmentation in dissociative identity disorder". J Trauma Dissociation 6 (1): 55–70. doi:10.1300/J229v06n01_04. PMID 16150685.