Memory Dysfunction

Continuum (Minneap Minn). 2021 Dec 1;27(6):1562-1585. doi: 10.1212/CON.0000000000001020.


Purpose of the review: This article provides a practical overview of the diagnostic process for patients with memory dysfunction through exploration of the anatomic, physiologic, and psychological aspects of human memory.

Recent findings: As updated methods become available to neurologists, the ability to accurately identify and treat patients with memory disorders evolves. An appreciation of current concepts in the anatomic, physiologic, and psychological aspects of memory, combined with a rational application of everyday tools (such as clinical examination, bedside testing, standardized cognitive screening, and formal neuropsychological examination), allows the clinician to identify possible etiologies and track longitudinal changes in functional memory status. Recent findings regarding the interactions of limbic, anterior temporal, primary sensory, parietal, and dorsal prefrontal structures shed new light on the putative classifications of procedural and declarative memory and their subfunctions.

Summary: An understanding of memory profiles pertaining to registration, encoding, consolidation, storage, and retrieval, as well as methods to assess those functions, facilitates the clinician's identification of underlying pathology and affected cerebral territories. The memory profile must be appreciated in the context of the entire individual, including possible confounds of comorbid conditions, psychiatric disorders, and normal healthy aging.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Memory Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders*
  • Neuropsychological Tests