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Retrograde Amnesia

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Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology

Short Description or Definition

Retrograde amnesia is the inability to retrieve experiences, facts, or concepts that were encountered prior to the causative disease or trauma. The loss of memories may be partial or complete; it frequently shows a temporal gradient with a dense loss for information acquired immediately prior to the onset of amnesia, and progressively decreasing loss for information acquired more remotely. It occurs in the amnesic syndromes, various forms of dementia, and head trauma.

Historical Background

Retrograde amnesia was described on several occasions in the eighteenth century – a notable example being Benjamin Franklin’s observation that electric shock could lead to loss of memory for the event. The first systematic study of retrograde amnesia came with Ribot’s (1882) treatise on disordered memory in which he formulated the law of regression, now known as Ribot’s law, that states that recently formed memories are the fastest to disappear. Contemporary cognitive...

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References and Readings

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Lafleche, G., Verfaellie, M. (2011). Retrograde Amnesia. In: Kreutzer, J.S., DeLuca, J., Caplan, B. (eds) Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology. Springer, New York, NY.

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