I'm a physicist, so as a fellow scientist I want to apologize because this question will be entirely based on anecdotal inferences and I am well aware how irritating that can be.

I have an eidetic memory and I've never experienced any of the common forms of anterograde amnesia. No blackouts from rapid consumption of alcohol (and believe me, I've tried. That was the fun part. But not for kids; then it's not fun), not from extreme fatigue, head trauma, I even went in for surgery once and the anesthetist said at one point "Well since you asked, the amnesiac should be setting in right about now" and I vividly recall another couple minutes of conversation while we waited for the general anesthetic to knock me out.

So, naturally, I just assumed it must have been because of my eidetic memory. But I've always had an interest in neuroscience and now my curiosity has gotten the better of me. Surely the memory systems of all people are similar enough that amnesiacs and the like should work on everyone. So I ask, are eidetic memories (or perfect, or photographic, or other unusual forms) actually less susceptible to anterograde amnesia? Or perhaps have I just been the victim of probability; this is more a matter of luck not neuroscience?

Please don't spare the gory details, neuroscience is cool (Neuroscientists are brainy guys. Sorry, I couldn't resist that pun). That said, I am physics, not biology; I'm probably under-specifying the question. Let me know if it's too broad and I'll try to focus.

  • $\begingroup$ If you have red hair you can expect a different reaction to anesthetic $\endgroup$ Oct 22, 2020 at 3:13

1 Answer 1


This question is more of a medical question than one of the underlying mechanisms of biological function.

The formation of long term memories is related to long-term potentiation. There are multiple neurotransmitters involved in this process. Ethanol primarily affects NMDA receptors. Drugs used to specifically induce anterograde amnesia, like propofol, primarily affect other others, like GABAA.

The process of memory formation relies on a variety of factors including the orchestration of multiple neurotransmitters. Anterograde amnesia can be induced by many factors and does not have a single known mechanism of action. It is not possible to conclude any single person will react identically to all inducers of anterograde amnesia. It is often the case that people have unique responses to drugs within a distribution of possible reactions.

The individual nature of responding to drugs is why side effect lists are lengthy, and usually only a few out of this list are observed in any individual.

My hypothesis is, as a regular consumer of alcohol, your liver function is elevated and responsible for your high tolerance. The cytochrome p450 family of enzymes are responsible for much of the metabolism of drugs in the body.

Liver function tests are cheap and interesting, I find. You might have some blood work done at a local lab to check out those stats as well as your cholesterol, etc., if you have an interest in such things.

  • $\begingroup$ Hang on, that "might" explain amnesiac drugs (although an anesthetist should account for that), but blackouts from alcohol have more to do with the rate alcohol is consumed than the actual amount. So regardless of my tolerance I should still be able to experience it with a moderate amount. Plus that doesn't explain lack of fatigue or trauma related memory loss or that similarly regular consumers do experience this effect. That said, this definitely supports my "I'm probably wrong with my assumption" suspicions $\endgroup$
    – Jim
    Aug 9, 2014 at 23:53
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Everyone reacts differently to drugs. There's nothing extraordinary about not suffering a few symptoms. Some people never have hangovers. You should ask a MD. These are all things that physicians specifically train to address. I think there's talk on StackExchange Area 51 on establishing a medical stack. $\endgroup$ Aug 9, 2014 at 23:59

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