Background: Several studies noted persistence of memory impairment following an episode of transient global amnesia (TGA) with standard tests.
Aim: To specify long-term memory impairments in a group of patients selected with stringent criteria.
Methods: Both retrograde and anterograde memory were investigated in 32 patients 13-67 months after a TGA episode with original tasks encompassing retrograde semantic memory (academic, public and personal knowledge), retrograde episodic memory (autobiographical events) and anterograde episodic memory.
Results: Patients had preserved academic and public knowledge. Pathological scores were obtained in personal verbal fluency for the two most recent periods, and patients produced less autobiographical events than controls. However, when they were provided time to detail, memories were as episodic as in controls regardless of their remoteness. Anterograde episodic tasks revealed a mild but significant impairment of the capacity of re-living the condition of encoding, i.e. the moment at which words were presented.
Conclusions: Patients who have suffered from an episode of TGA manifest deficits of memory focused on the retrieval of both recent semantic information and episodic memories and especially the capacity of re-living. These deficits may not result from a deterioration of memory per se but rather from difficulties in accessing memories.