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Trained Memory


When it comes to fascinating ideas to explore, Hollywood loves to use memory as a driver of blockbuster plots. It appears in everything from contemporary pieces on how diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia affect individuals and families, to implanting fantastical memories in far-off futures. But how realistic are these portrayals of memory in movies? In an on-going series, we’re going to explore popular movies with memory as a core component of their plot, and find out how accurate they really are. Here are the first eight movies on memory.

Total Recall (1990)

Rekall gives you the chance to remember a life you never lived. But what happens when the false memories unlock real memories, and your life is never the same?

Dennis Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a construction worker who keeps having dreams about Mars featuring a mysterious woman. He’s never been to Mars, and likely never will. So he decides to visit Rekall, a company that implants false memories. There, he chooses a fantastical adventure where Mars has a blue sky and he’s a secret agent. But halfway through the procedure things go wrong. And suddenly Quaid is on the run, trying to figure out which memories are real and which are fake.

Total Recall tackles memories on two fronts. There’s the fake memories Rekall offers to implant in your brain, and the repressed memories sinister forces are trying to keep Quaid from remembering. While memory implantation was the stuff of science fiction when this movie first came out, starting in the early 1990’s research started showing that it was possible to successfully implant memories through various techniques. In fact, just having family members alter the narrative of family events had a 37% success rate in individuals remembering a fictional event. Science has only progressed since then. In 2019, scientists were able to surgically implant false memories in mice. They were also able to alter actual memories. And research indicates we can suppress memory, too.

50 First Dates (2004)

When a man meets the girl of his dreams he never imagines that he’ll have to win her over every single day.

Living in Oahu is perfect for serial dater Henry Roth (Adam Sandler). With plenty of tourists, he never has to see the same woman twice. Until he sees Lucy Whitmore (Drew Barrymore) building a house out of her waffles. When he can’t get her out of his head, he goes back to try to ask her on a date. But she doesn’t remember who he is. And because a brain injury means she loses her memories every night, she never will.

While the name “Goldfield’s Syndrome” that Lucy suffers from is fictional, the actual amnesia is real. It’s a form of anterograde amnesia and the film is surprisingly accurate in how it portrays the symptoms. There are patients who “reboot” after going to sleep, losing all the memories they created during the day. And the character Ten-Second Tom, who could only remember new events for ten-seconds was also based in truth. Clive Wearing is one of the most famous amnesia patients who could only retain new memories for seven seconds.

Even the Hollywood ending where Lucy somehow remembered Henry is based in truth. Clive denied keeping a journal but knew where it was. He also recognized his wife even as she aged ten, twenty, and thirty years, and never was surprised that she—or even he—was aging. It seems that while patients with this type of amnesia can’t access new memories, they are coded somewhere in the brain and patients indicate this in surprising and unexpected ways.

Memento (2000)

A man is on a mission to find the men who killed his wife. The only problem is he has anterograde amnesia and can’t form new memories.

Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) lives his life through tattoos and post-it notes. They’re the only clues he has to remember his mission: finding the men who hurt his wife and caused his amnesia. He relates the story of an insurance claim he turned down, where he believed a man was faking amnesia. As Leonard follows the clues inked on his body, the two stories intertwine in a shocking and unexpected twist.

The movie is told both chronologically and in reverse order, indicated by either color film or black-and-white, but fold together at the end to form one cohesive narrative. The black-and-white portions give the audience the truth of Leonard’s life, while the color scenes throw the viewer into Leonard’s current experience. The result is a shockingly accurate portrayal of what it would be like to live life without the ability to retain new memories. Though the film has a dark twist, with Leonard using his amnesia to willfully alter what he believes is the truth, it does show how disorienting life becomes when you can’t retrieve new memories. In fact, doctors and memory experts have lauded the film for how accurate this portrayal is.

Still Alice

A linguistic’s professor is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease just after her fiftieth birthday.

Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) has a successful life. She’s a linguistic professor at Columbia University, her husband (Alec Baldwin) is a physician, and she has three adult children. But her life takes an unexpected turn when she forgets a word during a lecture and gets lost jogging on the familiar campus. The incidents spark a visit to her doctor, where she is diagnosed with early onset familial Alzheimer’s disease. As the disease progresses, life changes substantially for both Alice and her family.

Early onset Alzheimer’s disease is when symptoms occur in patients younger than sixty-five years old. It is one of the more rare forms of the disease, affecting only 5 – 10% of Alzheimer’s patients and 60% have a family history. Still Alice gives a hauntingly realistic portrayal of the disease, though experts indicate that the progression of symptoms occurs much faster than normal. That doesn’t make the film inaccurate, though. Some patients can see a rapid cognitive decline in a similar timeline as Alice. If anything, the film doesn’t indicate that the form Alice suffers from is rare, making it slightly misleading. But overall, it does a fantastic job showing how difficult Alzheimer’s disease is from both patient and family perspectives.

The Girl on the Train (2016)

A woman sees a murder during a blackout. But just because she can’t remember, that doesn’t mean she’s safe.

Alcohol ruined Rachel Watson’s (Emily Blunt) life. She lost her job and her marriage. Now, she rides the train into New York City every day, where she goes by her ex-husband’s new home with his new wife and their new baby. And she takes her obsession further by harassing the couple when she’s drunk. When she sees their married neighbor kissing a stranger, she decides to intervene. But the next day she wakes up covered in blood and hungover, with no memory of what happened. Rachel struggles to piece together a timeline of events to clear both her name and her conscious.

There are several different types of blackouts that alcohol can induce. Rachel suffers from what’s known as “fragmentary blackouts” where her memories are spotty rather than completely gone. Because she remembers fragments of events, she then strings together a narrative of what she believes happened. The memories are there, which is how she can piece together the truth in the end. This is the most common type of blackout people who drink alcohol suffer from, and the adverse affects to Rachel’s life are also accurately portrayed.

The Father (2020)

A father and daughter navigate life with dementia in a heartbreaking and exceedingly humane depiction.

After Anthony Evans (Anthony Hopkins) fires his caregiver, his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) visits him. She wants to move to Paris, but can’t leave him in his flat if he keeps firing his caregivers. Though he struggles to remember events and frequently loses objects, Anthony refuses to move. But Anthony continues to wake up in different places, sometimes with people he knows, other times with strangers. As Anthony struggles to piece together his life, he desperately holds onto logic and rational thinking, even when those two things seem to evade him the most.

Experts praised The Father for its stunningly accurate embodiment of dementia, with an entire paper published on the NIH relating the accuracy of the movie. Where some films ease the harshness of the disease, the film drops the viewer into a nonlinear narration, showing exactly how disorienting dementia truly is. Through clever camera work and an Oscar-winning performance, we see exactly how each stage of dementia looks and feels. Memory is slippery, time gets muddled, and facts become elusive. It also highlights the difficulty of the patient-caregiver relationship as the symptoms of the disease progress. Overall, the Father hits all the medical notes, covers medication options, how dementia feels from a patient perspective, and it’s all wrapped in a mystery for the viewer to unravel.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

A man discovers that his ex-girlfriend erased her memory of their relationship. But when he tries to do the same, he discovers he doesn’t want to forget and fights to keep his memories with her.

Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) and his girlfriend Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet) don’t have the perfect relationship. But he never expected her to erase him entirely. He decides two can play that game, and visits the same clinic to undergo the procedure. As Joel relives their happier moments, he realizes he doesn’t want to forget Clementine. The more he fights to keep his memories intact, the harder the company works to delete them entirely, forcing Joel to face the truth of why they drifted apart and maybe give him a map to find her again.

While memories can be planted, deleting an entire relationship isn’t possible yet. But the film does create a fictionalized possibility through the very real process of reconsolidation. Rather than memory being a fixed “thing” in your brain, neuroscientists believe the brain recodes a memory every time it’s retrieved. In theory, if you block the protein synthesis that occurs when synapses connect neurons—what happens in memory reconsolidation, you could technically target a memory and erase it. Though they don’t go into detail, the process the company uses in the movie vaguely appears to be doing exactly this.

The movie also does a fairly accurate representation of how memory is formed in the brain, particularly through Joel’s journey through his mind as he tries to escape the procedure. While there are a lot of technical aspects the movie could hone in on, instead it focuses on the important role emotion plays in forming, storing, and retrieving memory. Overall, while the techniques might be plausible, they still aren’t possible—yet.


When a heist goes wrong, a valuable painting goes missing. The only problem is the person who took it can’t remember where it is.

Simon Newton (James McAvoy) was more than the auctioneer. He was the inside man. But when he attacks the leader in the middle of the theft, he gets hit on the head. When he wakes up, he has no memory of what happened in the moments before and after the attack. Through the help of a hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson), he works to uncover his lost memories. But the truth is far more complicated than he ever imagined.

This tightly woven thriller has plenty of twists and turns, all tied to how head injuries can lead to memory loss. In cases of traumatic brain injuries, less than 3% of people had no memory loss. On the other side, 45% experienced memory loss for a month or longer. Clinicians were wary of hypnosis as an effective tool for memory recovery, however, more studies are emerging that show certain hypnotic techniques can be effective in helping patients with traumatic brain injuries recover lost memories while also aiding in alleviating anxiety and post-traumatic symptoms.


As science catches up, many plots that were once the stuff of science fiction is now shifting towards reality. Stay tuned for more amazing movies on memory, and our analysis of how accurate they are.

If you’re interested in improving your memory, check out our Kwik Recall class, where in 31 days you’ll unlock your ability to learn faster, remember more, and unlock your limitless potential.


Why should you train your memory?

Your memory is a priceless asset that you should not only take care of, but spend time developing. One way to do this effectively is to get in the habit of training your mind through daily brain exercises. As you learn new skills, your brain continues to grow—even as you get older. However, not exercising your brain might cause memory loss and an inability to cope with stress. Here are seven reasons to train your memory.

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Daily brain workout and new brain pathways

When you reach adulthood, your brain has built millions of neural pathways that help you function. These networks help you remember information quickly, perform routine tasks, and solve common problems with the least amount of mental effort. Memory is a muscle, and you have to use it or lose it. The more you train your brain, the better you can process and recall information. Make them part of your daily routine by scheduling time and increasing the challenge. The more you use your brain, the more new brain pathways you can grow.

Physical exercise

Physical exercise helps your brain stay strong, just like mental exercise. It raises oxygen levels in your brain and decreases the risk for disorders that leads to memory loss, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Training your brain also aids in reducing stress hormones. Most significantly, it plays a vital role in neuroplasticity by strengthening development and stimulating new neural growth. So, choose activities that get your blood pumping, such as aerobic exercise. Remember, what’s good for your heart is also good for your brain.

Good sleep

For your brain to work at optimal levels, it needs a good night’s sleep, in addition to all the training throughout the day. Over 95% of adults need seven and a half to nine hours of sleep every night to avoid sleep deficiency. There is a difference between the amount of sleep you need to work at your best and the minimum amount of sleep you can get. Studies show that sleep is essential for memory consolidation, with the key memory-enhancing activity happening through the deepest stages of sleep. Compromising on sleep—even for a few hours—may affect memory, problem-solving abilities, creativity, and thinking skills. One way to get better sleep is by turning off all screens at least one hour before bed. The blue light emission in tv, phone, and computer screens may trigger insomnia and suppress melatonin, the sleep hormone.

Meaningful relationships

Countless studies show that a life filled with friends and fun has many cognitive benefits. Healthy relationships are the ultimate brain booster. Humans are highly social animals and have evolved to survive in groups, not isolation. Socializing with others may offer the best kind of brain stimulation and mental exercise. Meaningful friendships provide a strong and vital support system for our brain and emotional health. There are many ways to take advantage of the memory-boosting benefits of socializing. You can join a club, see friends regularly, or do volunteer work. You can also enjoy similar emotional benefits of owning a pet, especially a dog.


Stress is one of the worst enemies of the brain and can lead to memory loss. Over time, chronic stress destroys brain cells and may shrink the region of the brain that creates new memories and recovers old memories. Training your brain helps you notice your stress levels, so that you can take steps to calm your mind when it becomes overpowering. Decreasing your stress levels slows the release of stress chemicals and helps protect your brain against long-term damage.

Laughter is the best medicine 

Physiologist Daniel Goleman wrote in his book, Emotional Intelligence, “laughter seems to help people think more broadly and associate more freely”. It engages multiple regions across the brain and as well as the body. Watching a comedy and listening to jokes activates an area of the brain associated with learning and creativity. Surround yourself with playful and fun-loving people. Humor and laughter are infectious. Frame photographs with memories of you and your loved ones having fun. Interact with children, as they are experts on playing, laughing, and taking things lightly.

Brain-boosting diet

The brain needs fuel, just like the body. A diet based on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats—such as nuts, fish, olive oil, and lean protein—supplies a lot of health benefits and also improves memory. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for brain health. If you don’t like seafood, you can find other sources of omega-3 in foods like walnuts, ground flaxseed, winter squash, seaweed, spinach, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, and soybeans. Ensure you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. Packed with antioxidants, these organic foods guard your brain cells against harm.


You need to train your memory, and there are many ways to do that. By maintaining good brain health, your memory will last well into old age. 

For more tips on how to train your limitless brain, watch this video:


The benefits of a trained memory affect several aspects of your daily life. It prepares you for new challenges, improves attention, and strengthens cognitive skills in your daily routine. Your brain continues to learn and grow as you age, but you have to train your memory at regular intervals.

Here are ten advantages of having a trained memory.

Stronger Memory

Brain training expands your memory and helps you remember daily tasks or information. Things like where you left your keys, managing your household finances, and recalling telephone numbers or names.

Active memory is when your short-term memory keeps information ready and easily accessible. Working memory is where you complete those tasks. Long-term memory contains all of your experiences and allows you to recall those memories for extended periods of time.

Brain exercises are the most effective and complete memory workout on hand because they use all aspects of your memory actively, keeping those neural pathways clear.

Enhanced Creativity

One of the most important benefits of having a trained memory is that it enables you to imagine things from different angles. It results in better problem-solving abilities, greater flexibility, and more creative ideas.

Adaptable thinking allows you to go beyond looking at only the facts present to solve a problem. You can extend basic logic when you analyze information to arrive at different conclusions.

Brain training includes flexibility games, such as taking images or symbols and extending a pattern using a set of rules, which results in improved creativity.

Sharper Focus

Memory training improves your concentration, attention, and multitasking ability significantly. In short-term memory, attention is essential. In order for information to enter and remain available for processing, you have to notice it first.

The modern world is full of distractions. Social media, advertisements, and email all have notifications pinging and dinging to grab your attention. You might feel pulled in several directions, diverting your focus and attention to multiple tasks at a time.

Brain training helps you narrow your focus so you can give your full attention to one task at a time. It’s possible to train your focus, and that means never losing important information from distraction again.

Improved Attention

Memory training can also sharpen your visual skills by training your spatial and visual abilities. You learn to identify visual patterns and recall shapes. To help with recall and memorization, you’ll practice using your imagination to visualize various items to associate with what you’re learning.

These exercises give you deeper awareness of your surroundings and help you find details you might have missed before. You also get better at active listening because you’re engaged in remembering what the speaker is saying more than what you want to say next.

Quick Reaction Time

Slow reactions can be a constant source of frustration, particularly in the modern world, where almost everything depends on fast responses based on your power of evaluation.

For example, the ability to be a good driver depends on these three factors: the ability to assess the situation, sharper concentration, and quick reaction times. 

As you train your memory, speed drills help decrease your reaction times to multiple situations in your life. They also strengthen the pathways in your prefrontal cortex, improving your decision-making and problem-solving skills.

Extended Vocabulary

By enhancing your ability for auditory processing, brain exercises can help with language fluency. Repetitive exercises help you find words easily, increase memorization, and allow you to speak with confidence. 

You can apply memory exercises by learning a new language. As you apply unfamiliar words and grammar to your base knowledge, you broaden your grammatical understanding of your primary language.

Enhanced Working Memory

Working memory acts to merge the temporary storage and the processing of information. It allows comprehension, problem solving, and reason. But it has a limited capacity, which means it needs flexibility to perform daily tasks efficiently.

Training your memory requires you to use your working memory as you practice active recall. While it can’t increase your working memory too much, it helps ensure that you can maximize your memory capabilities to get more done when you need to.

Longer Short-Term Verbal Memory

Verbal short-term memory is similar to short-term visual memory. It preserves audio representations of words, numbers, and objects in terms of language.

This is important when it is comes to learning a new language, being able to comprehend instructions, and being an active listener in any conversation.

Faster Visual-Spatial Short-Term Memory

Visual-spatial memory is where visual information is stored for a short time. You use this memory whenever you want to remember visual details like a map or someone’s facial features.

When you train your memory, you learn to remember visual cues based on connecting them to other pieces of your long-term memory. This means you get better at making visual connections to new items quickly and effectively.


These are only a few ways you can benefit from having a trained memory. It has a positive impact on your daily lifestyle. Having a trained memory will help you develop new mental skills and will sustain your memory as you age.  

If you want more information on how to learn faster, watch this video: