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‘Recovered memory’ debate is still on

Washington, July 8 (ANI): Brown University political scientist Ross Cheit has challenged two Harvard University psychiatrists’ claims that the controversial psychiatric disorder called dissociative amnesia, aka repressed memory, is not a natural neuropsychological phenomenon, but instead a culture-bound syndrome, dating from the nineteenth century.

The claims made by Harrison G. Pope and James Hudson in the journal Psychological Medicine in 2007, following a “Repression Challenge” in 2006, drew a lot of media attention.

Cheit said that he repeatedly contacted Pope and the journal editors shortly after the article was published, requesting the data from Pope and raising questions about the contest methodology.

According to him, several months later, Pope and his team acknowledged on their Web site that the submitted example of Nina, a 1786 opera by the French composer Nicolas Dalayrac, fulfilled the contest criteria and that the 1,000-dollar prize had been awarded.

Cheit, however, insisted that the authors and the journal never published a correction, addendum, or retraction of their original article and its conclusions.

“The entire situation is remarkable to me. It’s clearly a ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ situation. Pope takes an extreme position in saying there’s no such thing as recovered memory and I’m stunned that a scientist would be such an extremist. I’m also stunned that a scientist would be so willing to ignore evidence that contradicts him,” Cheit said.

He calls Pope’s entire contest “a sham”, accusing Pope’s team of failing to provide a thorough account of all submissions and the process by which they were rejected, offering highly questionable literary analysis, and including several misrepresentations of the state of the science regarding memory for trauma.

His team offer additional literary examples and summarize some data that Pope, and his team did not consider.

They conclude: “Literature can provide important information about human experience, but it cannot prove or disprove traumatic amnesia any more than it can prove or disprove the existence of bacteria or dragons. Literary passages and modern scientific data do reveal descriptions and data, respectively, that depict dissociative amnesia as a naturally occurring traumatic sequela.”

Cheit’s arguments appear in an article published in the Journal of Trauma and Dissociation. (ANI)

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