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Psychiatry Res. 2009 Oct 30;174(1):32-9. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2009.03.008. Epub 2009 Sep 23.

Functional brain imaging in 14 patients with dissociative amnesia reveals right inferolateral prefrontal hypometabolism.

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Department of Physiological Psychology, University of Bielefeld, P.O. Box 100131, 33501 Bielefeld, Germany.


Dissociative amnesia is a condition usually characterized by severely impaired retrograde memory functioning in the absence of structural brain damage. Recent case studies nevertheless found functional brain changes in patients suffering from autobiographical-episodic memory loss in the cause of dissociative amnesia. Functional changes were demonstrated in both resting state and memory retrieval conditions. In addition, some but not all cases also showed other neuropsychological impairments beyond retrograde memory deficits. However, there is no group study available that examined potential functional brain abnormalities and accompanying neuropsychological deteriorations in larger samples of patients with dissociative retrograde amnesia. We report functional imaging and neuropsychological data acquired in 14 patients with dissociative amnesia following stressful or traumatic events. All patients suffered from autobiographical memory loss. In addition, approximately half of the patients had deficits in anterograde memory and executive functioning. Accompanying functional brain changes were measured by [18F]fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET). Regional glucose utilization of the patients was compared with that of 19 healthy subjects, matched for age and gender. We found significantly decreased glucose utilization in the right inferolateral prefrontal cortex in the patients. Hypometabolism in this brain region, known to be involved in retrieval of autobiographical memories and self-referential processing, may be a functional brain correlate of dissociative amnesia.

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