amnesia


amnesia
amnestic /am nes"tik/, adj.
/am nee"zheuh/, n.
loss of a large block of interrelated memories; complete or partial loss of memory caused by brain injury, shock, etc.
[1780-90; < NL < Gk amnesía, var. of AMNESTÍA oblivion; perhaps learnedly formed from mne-, s. of mimnéskesthai to remember (cf. MNEMONIC) + -s- + -ia -IA. See AMNESTY]

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Loss of memory as a result of brain injury or deterioration, shock, fatigue, senility, drug use, alcoholism, anesthesia, illness, or neurotic reaction.

Amnesia may be anterograde (in which events following the causative trauma or disease are forgotten) or retrograde (in which events preceding the trauma or disease are forgotten). It can often be traced to a severe emotional shock, in which case personal memories (e.g., identity) rather than less-personal material (e.g., language skills) are affected. Such amnesia seems to represent an escape from disturbing memories, and is thus an example of repression; these memories can generally be recovered through psychotherapy or after the amnesiac state has ended. Amnesia may occasionally last for weeks, months, or even years, a condition known as fugue. See also hypnosis.

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      loss of memory occurring most often as a result of damage to the brain from trauma, stroke, Alzheimer disease, alcohol and drug toxicity, or infection. Amnesia may be anterograde, in which events following the causative trauma or disease are forgotten, or retrograde, in which events preceding the causative event are forgotten.

      The condition also may be traced to severe emotional shock, in which case personal memories (e.g., identity) are affected. Such amnesia seems to represent a psychological escape from or denial of memories that might cause anxiety. These memories are not actually lost, since they can generally be recovered through psychotherapy or after the amnesic state has ended.

      Occasionally amnesia may last for weeks, months, or even years, during which time the person may begin an entirely new life. Such protracted reactions are called fugue states. When recovered, the person is usually able to remember events that occurred prior to onset, but events of the fugue period are forgotten. Posthypnotic amnesia, the forgetting of most or all events that occur while under hypnosis in response to a suggestion by the hypnotist, has long been regarded as a sign of deep hypnosis.

      The common difficulty of remembering childhood experiences is sometimes referred to as childhood amnesia.

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Universalium. 2010.

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