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One Man's Case Of Herpes Will Scientifically Restore Your Faith In Love

This brings new meaning to the phrase 'forget-me-not'.

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Clive lives in a fleeting state of moment-to-moment consciousness, unable to process new memories and minimal retention of memories from the past.

Jiri Rezac / Via

Despite these extensive neurological handicaps, he is temporarily granted access into the archives of his mind through musical performance and the power of love.

Clive's puzzling condition is caused by brain inflammation known as encephalitis, specifically herpes simplex encephalitis (HSE).


HSE is rare among other encephalitis cases, accounting for only about 10% of diagnoses. It is also the most fatal with a 70% fatality rate when left untreated.

Wearing's case is attributed to herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), the common strain of herpes that also causes annoying cold sores and blisters.


Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) is the virus's more notorious twin often associated with sexual promiscuity.

Clive is capable of going about routine tasks like showering and shaving, as his procedural memory remains intact. More remarkably, it preserves his ability to perform music when prompted.

View this video on YouTube


Clive's procedural memory phenomenon demonstrates how habitual music has become after a lifetime dedicated to practice and performance. Engaging in pet pastime also produces the feel-good hormone, dopamine, and creates a state of euphoria that temporarily relieves Clive from the frustrations of his existence.

The only other force capable of restoring normalcy to Clive's day is the presence of his beloved wife, Deborah.


The couple met through Deborah's choir for which Clive was a conductor and fell in love over a shared passion for music. They were barely married a year and a half when he was struck with the devastating encephalitic attack.

Clive assumes that it is the first time in a while that they have seen each other every time they "re-meet" due to his detached state of consciousness up until that moment.

View this video on YouTube


He exclaims with glee when Deborah enters the room, embracing her tightly, squealing that she’s “the first person he’s seen”. These emotional reunions can occur multiple times throughout a single visit. For example, if Deborah leaves the room, he is astonished all over again at her presence upon her return.

Neurologist Oliver Sacks, explains in his book Musicophilia:


“His passionate relationship with Deborah…one that centers in part of their shared love for music, has engraved itself in him…so deeply that his amnesia, the most severe amnesia ever recorded, cannot eradicate it" (p. 203).

Anthropologist Helen Fisher’s research proves that love is more than an emotion: it is a fundamental human drive.


In her 2011 study, individuals in long-term, romantic relationships showed neural activity in dopamine-rich regions including the ventral tegmental area and the caudate, associated with reward processing and motivation when thinking about their ~bae~. These brain areas are also involved in the rewards system associated with survival behaviors in response money, food, cocaine and alcohol.

Love's reward system activation also influences the tendency for one to integrate their partner into self-referential processing.


Sacks observed in an interview with Clive and his wife that his brain may take this integration to an extreme. Clive cannot remember his wife's name, but when asked for his full name, he seriously responds ‘Clive David Deborah Wearing’.

Deborah’s novel, Forever Today, details their relationship, but only accounts for her side of the story. We will never hear of sparks that Clive felt when he first saw her or know the moment he was certain that she was *the one*.

Jiri Rezac / Via

Perhaps it is more romantic that their story exists in Clive's mind as semantic knowledge. He knows that he loves Deborah, and that is a fact.

Clive currently lives in an assisted living residence where he can receive constant medical attention. Living Without Memory, the BBC documentary about his life and condition, is available to watch in its entirety on YouTube.

View this video on YouTube


For Additional Reading:

"The Abyss", Oliver Sacks

"Musicophilia", Oliver Sacks

"The Man Who Keeps Falling In Love With His Wife", Deborah Wearing

"Forever Today", Deborah Wearing

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