Neuropsychology Review

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 69–71 | Cite as

Wernicke’s Encephalopathy and Korsakoff’s Syndrome Revisited

  • Edith V. SullivanEmail author
  • Rosemary Fama

Wernicke’s Encephalopathy (WE) and Korsakoff’s Syndrome (KS): Brief History and Linkage

Carl Wernicke, a German neurologist, published the formal description of the encephalopathy for whom it is named 131 years ago. The clinical symptoms included lethargy, ophthalmoplegia, ataxia, and mental compromise. Within the same decade but unaware of Wernicke’s description, Sergei Korsakoff, a Russian psychiatrist, presented his doctoral dissertation, “Alcoholic Paralysis,” on the circumscribed amnesia occurring in certain cases of chronic alcoholism. More than half a century lapsed before the common etiology of thiamine deficiency was discovered as the cause of the signs, symptoms, and link between these conditions (for historical reviews, see Charness, et al. 1989; Victor, et al. 1989). We now acknowledge the temporal linkage of Wernicke’s Encephalopathy (WE) and Korsakoff’s Syndrome (KS), depicted in Fig.  1(cover image): 1) the acute phase of the encephalopathy, which results in bilateral...


Anorexia Nervosa Thiamine Deficiency Hyperemesis Gravidarum Intensive Care Unit Nurse Beriberi 
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This work was supported by grants from the NIAAA (AA010723, AA017168, AA017923).


The author is the editor-in-chief of the journal.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesStanford University School of MedicineStanfordUSA

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