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Cortex. 2000 Sep;36(4):521-37.

Profound retrograde amnesia following mild head injury: organic or functional?

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Sub-department of Clinical Health Psychology, University College London.


This paper describes a 56 year old female patient (JJ) who suffered a minor head injury at work and presented with profound retrograde amnesia for both public events and autobiographical material spanning her entire life. In addition, she complained of word-finding difficulties and anterograde memory impairment and neuropsychological assessment found evidence of mild executive dysfunction. Neurological investigations (CT and EEG) were essentially normal although changes indicative of small vessel disease were noted on MRI brain scan. Various forms and aetiologies of remote memory loss were considered including, simulated, psychogenic and organic amnesia, but differential diagnosis proved difficult. It is proposed that criteria used in clinical practice to differentiate functional and organic complaints are limited and this may be because (1) both factors can be involved in the aetiology of amnesia, and (2) a similar underlying brain mechanism, such as a retrieval deficit could underlie many instances of organic and psychogenic amnesia. Future research, complemented by functional brain imaging, is needed to explore the nature of retrieval deficits.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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