If someone comes down with a case of amnesia caused by traumatic head injury, what's the best way to bring him or her back to normal?
Any fan of The Flintstones knows the answer to that question: Simply bonk the amnesiac on the head again to realign the senses. It worked for Fred, after all, whenever a stray bowling ball found its way to his skull, as if drawn to him.
This course of action is also likely known to anyone in the medical profession as one the worst treatments imaginable for any head trauma. And yet, the idea that a second trauma could effectively offset the first to restore an amnesiac's memory is endorsed by upwards of 46 percent of the general public, finds Drexel University psychology professor Mary Spiers.
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So how is that anyone could ever consider this Stone Age treatment an effective remedy? Rather that tracing back to prehistory, the notion of a second knock on the noggin to cure amnesia has its roots in 19th-century medicine, Spiers writes in an article published in the journal Neurology.
The traumatic treatment was first theorized by French scientist named Francois Xavier Bichat. He reasoned that the two hemispheres of the brain acted in sync. As such, in order to restore balance, what happens on one side must be duplicated on the other.
His evidence for his supposed amnesia cure? None whatsoever.
"From my reading of Bichat's work, it seems that he felt that the second trauma amnesia cure was a common occurrence and didn't need the citation of an individual case," Spiers said. "This was not unusual at the time, to forgo evidence like that."
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