Amnesia, the loss of memories encompassing facts, information, and experiences, is often portrayed in movies and television as a complete loss of identity. However, this is not typically the case in reality. In actuality, individuals with amnesia, also known as amnestic syndrome, generally retain awareness of their own identity. Nevertheless, they may encounter difficulties in forming new memories and acquiring new information.

Amnesia is commonly caused by damage to brain regions crucial for memory processing. While some instances of amnesia can be transient, such as in the case of transient global amnesia, where memory loss is temporary, amnesia can be permanent. Despite there not being a specific treatment for amnesia itself, it is possible to address the underlying issues that contribute to the condition.

Individuals with amnesia, along with their families, can adapt to living with the condition by employing memory-improving strategies and seeking support. These strategies may involve the use of external aids, such as calendars, reminders, and notes, to compensate for memory deficits. Additionally, support from healthcare professionals, cognitive rehabilitation, and participation in memory-enhancing activities can be beneficial for managing the challenges associated with amnesia.


Amnesia has these two fundamental characteristics:

  • Difficulty picking up new information.
  • Difficulty recalling past events and previously known information.

Amnesic individuals often experience difficulties with short-term memory, leading to challenges in retaining new information. As a result, they may have trouble recalling recent events or acquiring fresh knowledge. However, it is common for deeper and more remote memories to remain intact despite the impairment in short-term memory function.

People might, for instance, remember events from their youth or be familiar with previous presidents’ names. However, they might be unable to name the current president, identify the month, or recall their breakfast.

Isolated memory loss, such as that experienced by amnesic individuals, does not have any bearing on a person’s intelligence, general knowledge, awareness, or attention span. These cognitive abilities remain unaffected despite the memory impairment. Similarly, memory loss does not impact one’s identity, personality, or judgment. People with amnesia can typically engage in activities like reading and speaking, and they can also acquire new skills such as playing the piano or riding a bike. Furthermore, individuals with amnesia are often aware of their memory difficulties, recognizing the limitations they face in retaining and recalling information.

Dementia is different from amnesia. Memory loss is a common symptom of dementia, but it often includes other cognitive issues that impair daily functioning. Problems with language, judgment, and visual-spatial abilities are among these.

Another typical symptom of mild cognitive impairment is memory loss. Memory and other cognitive issues are present with this illness, however they are not as severe as those with dementia.

Additional symptoms

Depending on the underlying cause of amnesia, there can be additional symptoms that accompany the memory loss. These may include the occurrence of false memories, which can either be completely fabricated or genuine recollections that have been lost over time. Disorientation or confusion may also be present in some cases.

If someone experiences unexplained memory loss, a head injury, or persistent confusion, it is crucial for them to seek medical attention promptly. In some instances, individuals with amnesia may struggle to orient themselves or recognize the need for medical help. It is important to assist someone exhibiting symptoms of amnesia in accessing the necessary medical care they require.


Numerous brain regions are involved in typical memory function. Memory can be impacted by any brain disorder or injury.

Damage to the parts of the limbic system, which regulates emotions and memories, can cause amnesia. They consist of the thalamus, a structure located deep inside the brain’s center. They also comprise the hippocampal formations in the brain’s temporal lobes.

Neurological amnesia is the term used to describe amnesia brought on by brain damage or injury. Amnesia due to neurological reasons could result from:

  • The brain is not getting enough oxygen. This could occur due to a heart attack, respiratory problems, or carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Prolonged alcohol abuse that causes the body to have too little thiamin, or vitamin B-1, in it. Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is the term used to describe this condition.
  • Stroke.
  • Brain tumors in memory-controlling regions.
  • The degradation of nerve tissue is a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease and other illnesses.
  • Seizures.
  • Some drugs that have sedative effects, such as benzodiazepines.
  • Inflammation of the brain, which could be brought on by a virus infection such as the herpes simplex virus. Alternatively, inflammation might be brought on by an immunological response to a cancer anywhere in the body. Without cancer, it could potentially result from an autoimmune reaction.

Concussion-related head injuries, whether they occur during sports or a car accident, can induce confusion and make it difficult to remember new knowledge. This is particularly typical in the initial phases of recovery. In general, minor head injuries don’t result in permanent amnesia, but more serious brain injuries can.

Dissociative amnesia, another uncommon form of amnesia, is caused by emotional trauma or shock. Being the victim of a violent crime or suffering another trauma can cause it. People who have this illness may lose their own recollections and life information. Usually, the memory loss is temporary.

Risk factors

If you’ve had any of the following, your risk of having amnesia may be higher:

  • Stroke.
  • Trauma to the head.
  • Brain surgery.
  • Alcohol consumption.
  • Seizures.