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Transient epileptic amnesia is a form of temporal lobe epilepsy in which sufferers often complain of irretrievable loss of remote memories. We used a broad range of memory tests to clarify the extent and nature of the remote memory deficits in patients with transient epileptic amnesia. Performance on standard tests of anterograde memory was normal. In contrast, there was a severe impairment of memory for autobiographical events extending across the entire lifespan, providing evidence for the occurrence of 'focal retrograde amnesia' in transient epileptic amnesia. There was a milder impairment of personal semantic memory, most pronounced for midlife years. There were limited deficits of public semantic memory for recent decades. These results may reflect subtle structural pathology in the medial temporal lobes or the effects of the propagation of epileptiform activity through the network of brain regions responsible for long-term memory, or a combination of these two mechanisms.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1368 - 1379


Aged, Amnesia, Retrograde, Autobiography as Topic, Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe, Female, Humans, Language, Male, Memory, Middle Aged, Neuropsychological Tests, Time Factors