Royal Society Publishing

The loss of episodic memories in retrograde amnesia: single–case and group studies

Michael D. Kopelman, Narinder Kapur


Retrograde amnesia in neurological disorders is a perplexing and fascinating research topic. The severity of retrograde amnesia is not well correlated with that of anterograde amnesia, and there can be disproportionate impairments of either. Within retrograde amnesia, there are various dissociations which have been claimed—for example, between the more autobiographical (episodic) and more semantic components of memory. However, the associations of different types of retrograde amnesia are also important, and clarification of these issues is confounded by the fact that retrograde amnesia seems to be particularly vulnerable to psychogenic factors. Large frontal and temporal lobe lesions have been postulated as critical in producing retrograde amnesia. Theories of retrograde amnesia have encompassed storage versus access disruption, physiological processes of ‘consolidation’, the progressive transformation of episodic memories into a more ‘semantic’ form, and multiple–trace theory. Single–case investigations, group studies and various forms of neuroimaging can all contribute to the resolution of these controversies.

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