Syndromes of retrograde amnesia: a conceptual and empirical synthesis

Psychol Bull. 1999 Nov;125(6):800-25. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.125.6.800.


This article attempts a synthesis of the range of disorders that have been subsumed under the rubric of retrograde amnesia. At a functional level, it is possible to make distinctions between various forms of retrograde amnesia, including a distinction between episodic amnesia for personally experienced events and semantic retrograde amnesia for components of knowledge, such as those relating to people and events. At an anatomical level, discrete lesions to limbic-diencephalic structures usually result in a limited degree of retrograde amnesia. Marked episodic or marked semantic retrograde amnesia is usually associated with significant involvement of cortical and neocortical structures. Retrograde amnesia is a functionally heterogeneous rather than a unitary phenomenon. Discontinuities and dissociations found in published studies point to the potential fractionation of retrograde amnesia into component disorders, each with its own neural profile.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amnesia, Retrograde / diagnosis*
  • Amnesia, Retrograde / physiopathology
  • Amnesia, Retrograde / psychology
  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Diencephalon / physiopathology
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Limbic System / physiopathology
  • Mental Recall / physiology
  • Neocortex / physiopathology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Retention, Psychology / physiology