Transient global amnesia: a review emphasizing pathogenic aspects

Acta Neurol Scand. 2000 Nov;102(5):275-83. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0404.2000.102005275.x.


The transitory memory disturbance known as transient global amnesia (TGA) remains an enigma from a pathogenic point of view. In spite of its typical benign prognosis, TGA is a frightening experience for patients and their relatives. Moreover, a TGA episode usually leads to extensive investigation of patients in search of organic alterations that might be responsible for the event. Finally, TGA generates queries about therapeutic choices. In this review, we critically re-evaluate the evidence in support of and against the three main pathogenic hypotheses (i.e. ischemia, seizure discharge, and migraine), and we conclude that none of these appears completely convincing. Given the good prognosis and the lack of association with organic and instrumental abnormalities, we advance the hypothesis that TGA may be related to psychological disturbances causing transient alteration in brain metabolism and, consequently, amnesia. Our conclusion has relevant consequences in the evaluation of patients with TGA.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Amnesia, Transient Global / diagnostic imaging
  • Amnesia, Transient Global / pathology
  • Amnesia, Transient Global / physiopathology*
  • Brain / blood supply*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation
  • Cortical Spreading Depression
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Ischemic Attack, Transient / physiopathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Migraine Disorders / physiopathology
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed