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Concept: Anterograde amnesia

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Transient amnesic syndromes are striking clinical phenomena that are commonly encountered by physicians in acute medical settings. Diagnosis of such syndromes can be challenging, and their causes have been debated for over 50 years. Critical clinical distinctions, such as between transient global amnesia (TGA) and transient epileptic amnesia (TEA), as well as important clues to the underlying pathophysiology, have recently been revealed. TGA is characterized by the sudden onset of a profound anterograde and retrograde amnesia that lasts for up to 24 h, with neuroimaging after an acute TGA event showing transient perturbation of specific hippocampal circuits that are involved in memory processing. Some cases of transient amnesia are attributable to focal seizure activity and are termed TEA, which has a clinical presentation similar to that of TGA, but can be distinguished from the latter by the brevity and frequency of amnesic attacks. Moreover, TEA carries a risk of persistent memory impairment that can be mistaken for dementia. Here, we summarize clinically relevant aspects of transient amnesic syndromes, giving practical recommendations for diagnosis and patient management. We describe results from imaging and epidemiological studies that have shed light on the functional anatomy and pathophysiological mechanisms underlying these conditions.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Hippocampus, Anterograde amnesia, Amnesia, Retrograde amnesia, Transient global amnesia, Memory disorders, Transient epileptic amnesia

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After traumatic brain injury (TBI) and emergence from coma, the majority of people experience posttraumatic amnesia (PTA), characterized by confusion, disorientation, retrograde and anterograde amnesia, poor attention, and sometimes agitation and delusions. An international team of researchers and clinicians developed recommendations for assessment and management of PTA.

Concepts: Psychology, Traumatic brain injury, Hippocampus, Anterograde amnesia, Amnesia, Post-traumatic amnesia, Retrograde amnesia, Memory disorders

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Memory consolidation is the process by which a newly formed and unstable memory transforms into a stable long-term memory. It is unknown whether the process of memory consolidation occurs exclusively through the stabilization of memory engrams. By using learning-dependent cell labeling, we identified an increase of synaptic strength and dendritic spine density specifically in consolidated memory engram cells. Although these properties are lacking in engram cells under protein synthesis inhibitor-induced amnesia, direct optogenetic activation of these cells results in memory retrieval, and this correlates with retained engram cell-specific connectivity. We propose that a specific pattern of connectivity of engram cells may be crucial for memory information storage and that strengthened synapses in these cells critically contribute to the memory retrieval process.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Memory, Hippocampus, Long-term potentiation, Anterograde amnesia, Amnesia, Dendritic spine

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Research has shown that alcohol can have both detrimental and facilitating effects on memory: intoxication can lead to poor memory for information encoded after alcohol consumption (anterograde amnesia) and may improve memory for information encoded before consumption (retrograde facilitation). This study examined whether alcohol consumed after witnessing a crime can render individuals less vulnerable to misleading post-event information (misinformation).

Concepts: Hippocampus, Anterograde amnesia, Amnesia, Benzodiazepine, Witness, Retrograde amnesia, Rendering

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Anterograde amnesia caused by bilateral hippocampal or diencephalon damage manifests in characteristic symptoms of preserved intellect and implicit learning, and short span of awareness with complete and rapid forgetting of episodic material. A new case, WO, 38-year-old male with anterograde amnesia, in the absence of structural brain changes or psychological explanation is presented, along with four comparison cases from the extant literature that share commonalities between them including preserved intellect, span of awareness greater than working memory, and complete forgetting within hours or days following successful learning, including notably for both explicit and implicit material. WO’s amnesia onset coincided with anesthetic injection and root canal procedure, with extended vasovagal-like incident. The commonalities between the five cases presented may suggest a shared biological mechanism involving the breakdown of intermediate-to-late-stage consolidation that does not depend on the structural integrity of the hippocampi. Speculation on the mechanism of consolidation breakdown and diagnostic implications are discussed.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Memory, Hippocampus, Episodic memory, Long-term memory, Anterograde amnesia, Amnesia

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Memory reconsolidation is considered to be the process whereby stored memories become labile on recall, allowing updating. Blocking the restabilization of a memory during reconsolidation is held to result in a permanent amnesia. The targeted knockdown of either Zif268 or Arc levels in the brain, and inhibition of protein synthesis, after a brief recall results in a non-recoverable retrograde amnesia, known as reconsolidation blockade. These experimental manipulations are seen as key proof for the existence of reconsolidation. However, here we demonstrate that despite disrupting the molecular correlates of reconsolidation in the hippocampus, rodents are still able to recover contextual memories. Our results challenge the view that reconsolidation is a separate memory process and instead suggest that the molecular events activated initially at recall act to constrain premature extinction.

Concepts: Amygdala, Memory, Hippocampus, Long-term potentiation, Episodic memory, Anterograde amnesia, Amnesia, Retrograde amnesia

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We describe a mathematical model of learning and memory and apply it to the dynamics of forgetting and amnesia. The model is based on the hypothesis that the neural systems involved in memory at different time scales share two fundamental properties: (1) representations in a store decline in strength (2) while trying to induce new representations in higher-level more permanent stores. This paper addresses several types of experimental and clinical phenomena: (i) the temporal gradient of retrograde amnesia (Ribot’s Law), (ii) forgetting curves with and without anterograde amnesia, and (iii) learning and forgetting curves with impaired cortical plasticity. Results are in the form of closed-form expressions that are applied to studies with mice, rats, and monkeys. In order to analyze human data in a quantitative manner, we also derive a relative measure of retrograde amnesia that removes the effects of non-equal item difficulty for different time periods commonly found with clinical retrograde amnesia tests. Using these analytical tools, we review studies of temporal gradients in the memory of patients with Korsakoff’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Dementia, Huntington’s Disease, and other disorders.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Hippocampus, Dementia, Vector calculus, Anterograde amnesia, Amnesia, Retrograde amnesia, Memory disorders

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Whole-body cryotherapy (WBC), which consists of a short exposure to very cold and dry air in special ‘cryo-chambers’, is believed to reduce inflammation and musculoskeletal pain as well as improve athletes' recovery. This is the case of a 63-year-old male, who presented with transient global amnesia (TGA) after undertaking a WBC session. TGA is a clinical syndrome characterised by a sudden onset of anterograde amnesia, sometimes coupled with a retrograde component, lasting up to 24 hours without other neurological deficits. Even though the patient completely recovered, as expected, in 24 hours, this case highlights that WBC is potentially not as risk free as thought to be initially. To conclude, before WBC can be medically recommended, well-conducted studies investigating the possible adverse events are required.

Concepts: Medicine, Neurology, Hippocampus, Anterograde amnesia, Amnesia, Retrograde amnesia, Transient global amnesia, Memory disorders

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Amnesia is usually described as an impairment of a long-term memory (LTM) despite an intact short-term memory (STM). The intact recency effect in amnesia had supported this view. Although dual-store models of memory have been challenged by single-store models based on interference theory, this had relatively little influence on our understanding and treatment of amnesia, perhaps because the debate has centred on experiments in the neurologically intact population. Here we tested a key prediction of single-store models for free recall in amnesia: that people with amnesia will exhibit a memory advantage for the most recent items even when all items are stored in and retrieved from LTM, an effect called long-term recency. People with amnesia and matched controls studied, and then free-recalled, word lists with a distractor task following each word, including the last (continual distractor task, CDFR). This condition was compared to an Immediate Free Recall (IFR, no distractors) and a Delayed Free Recall (DFR, end-of-list distractor only) condition. People with amnesia demonstrated the full long-term recency pattern: the recency effect was attenuated in DFR and returned in CDFR. The advantage of recency over midlist items in CDFR was comparable to that of controls, confirming a key prediction of single-store models. Memory deficits appeared only after the first word recalled in each list, suggesting the impairment in amnesia may emerge only as the participant’s recall sequence develops, perhaps due to increased susceptibility to output interference. Our findings suggest that interference mechanisms are preserved in amnesia despite the overall impairment to LTM, and challenge strict dual-store models of memory and their dominance in explaining amnesia. We discuss the implication of our findings for rehabilitation.

Concepts: Memory, Hippocampus, Short-term memory, Memory processes, Long-term memory, Anterograde amnesia, Amnesia, HM

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Prior experience accelerates acquisition of novel, related information through processes like assimilation into mental schemas, but the underlying neuronal mechanisms are poorly understood. We investigated the roles that prior experience and hippocampal CA3 N-Methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR)-dependent synaptic plasticity play in CA1 place cell sequence encoding and learning during novel spatial experiences. We found that specific representations of de novo experiences on linear environments were formed on a framework of pre configured network activity expressed in the preceding sleep and were rapidly, flexibly adjusted via NMDAR-dependent activity. This prior experience accelerated encoding of subsequent experiences on contiguous or isolated novel tracks, significantly decreasing their NMDAR-dependence. Similarly, de novo learning of an alternation task was facilitated by CA3 NMDARs; this experience accelerated subsequent learning of related tasks, independent of CA3 NMDARs, consistent with a schema-based learning. These results reveal the existence of distinct neuronal encoding schemes which could explain why hippocampal dysfunction results in anterograde amnesia while sparing recollection of old, schema-based memories. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.01326.001.

Concepts: Synaptic plasticity, Memory, Hippocampus, NMDA receptor, Knowledge, Long-term potentiation, Anterograde amnesia, Amnesia