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Classification according to ICD-10
F04 Organic amnesia syndrome, not caused by alcohol or other psychotropic substances
F44.0 Dissociative amnesia
R41.1 Anterograde amnesia
R41.2 Retrograde amnesia
R41.3 Other amnesia
G45.4 Transient global amnesia (amnesiac episode)
ICD-10 online (WHO version 2019)

Amnesia ( ancient Greek μνήμη mnémē , German 'memory' , 'memory' with alpha privativum ) describes a form of memory disruption for temporal or content- related memories.


Amnesia can occur after accidents, such as a traumatic brain injury or a concussion , as well as epilepsy , meningitis , encephalitis or a stroke . Possible causes of amnesia are also hypoxia , dementia or migraines, and electroconvulsive therapy . In the case of traumatic experiences, so-called brainwashing or hypnosis , dissociative amnesia can occur.

Amnesia can also be caused by poisoning , which also includes alcohol or other drugs, especially if the alcohol abuse has dragged on for many years ( Korsakoff syndrome ). According to a study carried out on rats, the popularly known "film tear" (also: " blackout ") is caused by activation / inhibition of NMDA receptors . This abnormal excitation produces steroids , which in turn block long-term potentiation . The administration of 5α-reductase inhibitors can prevent the formation of steroids.

In terms of medication, this is sometimes also due to long-term drug therapy with substances such as midazolam or flunitrazepam , administration of morphine or fentanyl as well as sedation (e.g. using propofol ) can have this consequence. Other reasons for amnesia are stress or genetic predispositions .


There are several forms of amnesia:

Retrograde, anterograde, and congrade amnesia

In retrograde amnesia (retrograde: retroactive), memory loss occurs for the period prior to the occurrence of the damaging event (images or relationships stored in the memory cannot be brought into consciousness). In contrast, anterograde amnesia (anterograde: working forward) is a loss of memory for a certain time after a damaging event. The kongrade amnesia in turn is a non Remembering the actual event without loss of retroactive memory or of capital for new recording.

Transient global amnesia

The transient global amnesia is a temporary anterograde and retrograde amnesia, along with disorientation or confusion . Typically, those affected are person-oriented and able to take complex actions, e.g. B. drive a car to perform. By definition, the disruption should be over after 24 hours. The exact cause is unclear, all we know for sure is that the hippocampal region is affected on both sides. It is important to consider the possibility of an amnesic epileptic fit that requires different treatment. More details can be found in the corresponding guidelines for neurology, see reference below.

Infantile amnesia

As infantile amnesia , one refers to the phenomenon that adults can not remember events of their own early childhood (2-3 years) in front of a certain age. An attempt is made to explain this psychologically (ego maturation) and / or physiologically (brain maturation).

Puberal amnesia

The pubertal amnesia is that of Ernest Bornemann described circumstance that adults can not remember their sexual activity from before puberty more.

Amnestic syndrome

A syndrome with significant impairment of short and long-term memory, with preserved immediate memory (ultra-short-term memory). The procedural memory, in which, for example, action routines such as swimming, cycling or tying shoes are stored, is usually not affected. There is a limited ability to learn new material and temporal disorientation. Confabulation can be a distinct trait, but cognition and other cognitive functions, including intelligence, are usually intact. As a rule, patients suffer from particular limitations in episodic memory , i.e. the part in which details about personal as well as public life are stored. Anterograde amnesias are usually more pronounced than retrograde.

Severe cases

HM (1953)

Because of life-threatening epilepsy, the hippocampi and tonsils were removed from both sides of the patient HM in 1953 (bilateral medial lobectomy of the temporal lobe ); his epilepsy was largely cured, but he suffered from total anterograde amnesia for the rest of his life.

Benjaman Kyle (2004)

American William Powell disappeared in 1977 and was beaten and passed out near a Georgia fast food outlet in 2004. Powell was often in the media under the alternate name of Benjaman Kyle , but it was not until 2015 that he could be identified.

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Amnesia  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Doctors newspaper: This is why the film tears after the binge. Retrieved August 6, 2017 .
  2. ICD-10: F04 - Organic amnesia syndrome, not caused by alcohol or other psychotropic substances.
  3. ^ Robert-Benjamin Illing: Stations of brain research through the millennia. Retrieved September 26, 2016 .
  4. Matt Wolfe: The Last Unknown Man. New Republic, November 21, 2016 (accessed November 22, 2017)