The newsletter of the Memory Disorders Project at Rutgers University

Posttraumatic Amnesia

Posttraumatic amnesia is a memory disruption following injury, such as a blow to the head. Often, the injury leads to a period of coma (unconsciousness) which can last a few seconds or minutes or, in severe cases, can last weeks.

When consciousness is recovered, the patient typically experiences a period of confusion. When the confusion clears, testing may reveal that the patient has a permanent retrograde amnesia for the events leading up to the injury and a permanent anterograde amnesia for events which followed the injury (e.g. during the period of confusion).

The window of amnesia may be limited to a few minutes before and after the injury, or may be more extensive. Outside this window, memory for prior and subsequent events is normal.

Further Reading:

  • L. Squire & E. Kandel (2000) Memory: From Mind to Molecules. New York: Scientific American Library.

by Catherine E. Myers. Copyright © 2006 Memory Loss and the Brain