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Brain. 2008 Sep;131(Pt 9):2243-63. doi: 10.1093/brain/awn127. Epub 2008 Jul 9.

Recent insights into the impairment of memory in epilepsy: transient epileptic amnesia, accelerated long-term forgetting and remote memory impairment.

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Professor of Cognitive and Behavioural Neurology, Peninsula Medical School, Barrack Road, Exeter, UK.


Complaints of memory difficulties are common among patients with epilepsy, particularly with temporal lobe epilepsy where memory-related brain structures are directly involved by seizure activity. However, the reason for these complaints is often unclear and patients frequently perform normally on standard neuropsychological tests of memory. In this article, we review the literature on three recently described and interrelated forms of memory impairment associated with epilepsy: (i) transient epileptic amnesia, in which the sole or main manifestation of seizures is recurrent episodes of amnesia; (ii) accelerated long-term forgetting, in which newly acquired memories fade over days to weeks and (iii) remote memory impairment, in which there is loss of memories for personal or public facts or events from the distant past. Accelerated long-term forgetting and remote memory impairment are common amongst patients with transient epileptic amnesia, but have been reported in other forms of epilepsy. Their presence goes undetected by standard memory tests and yet they can have a profound impact on patients' lives. They pose challenges to current theoretical models of memory. We discuss the evidence for each of these phenomena, as well as their possible pathophysiological bases, methodological difficulties in their investigation and their theoretical implications.

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