The Syndrome of Transient Epileptic Amnesia

Diagnose “Psychogenic” Causation Carefully: Remember That “Standard Tests” Can Sometimes Miss the Point, and Discuss Difficult Cases with Colleagues When in Doubt
  • Adam Zeman


A 51-year-old industrial surveyor, KN, presented, many years ago, with a history unlike any I had encountered before. The story was relayed to me by the junior doctor working next door, and, on the first occasion, I met the patient myself only briefly. The history had three main elements. First, for the past year, the patient, KN, had been waking once a month or so in an amnesic state which usually lasted about 20 min. While in this state, he was absolutely unable to remember events from recent days or the tasks of the day ahead. He had partial recollection for the episodes, such that he could, at least to some extent, “remember not being able to remember.” Second, independent of the amnesic spells just mentioned, he had noticed that his memory for recent events was fading unusually rapidly over weeks. For example, about 10 weeks before he had spent a fortnight working at a factory which he had not visited before, where he successfully undertook a major survey. By the time of his hospital appointment, although he knew that he had undertaken this piece of work, he had no recollection of the appearance of the factory site or of any of the details of the fortnight he spent there. Thirdly, he had noticed that it had become hard for him to evoke memories of much more distant events, from over 10 years ago, which he knew he could previously recall, including several holidays abroad; he was also finding it hard to recollect previously familiar routes around his familiar neighborhood.


Seizure Transient epileptic amnesia 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cognitive and Behavioural NeurologyUniversity of Exeter Medical SchoolExeterUK

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