A case of amnesia at an early age

Daniela Brizzolara, Claudia Casalini, Domenico Montanaro, Federico Posteraro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


A dissociation between short- and long-term memory (LTM) and between the episodic and the semantic component of LTM is reported in a young girl who became amnesic at the age of 6 after an episode of acute encephalopathy resulting in bilateral frontal, insular, thalamic, ponto-mesencephalic, hippocampal and temporal lesions, as documented by MRI. The girl became amnesic a few months after starting school. A follow-up investigation showed that she was able to learn to read, write and acquire number facts and procedures and to improve her semantic knowledge. Our results show that the features of adult amnesia can also be found in children and that new semantic knowledge can be acquired in spite of an anterograde memory deficit. This dissociation does not agree with theories viewing longterm declarative memory as a unitary process mediated by the hippocampal system, but supports recent hypotheses that the acquisition of semantic knowledge is independent from episodic memory processes, and takes place through spared cortical regions subjacent to the hippocampi (Vargha-Khadem et al., 1997).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)605-625
Number of pages21
Issue number4-5
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • Developmental amnesia
  • Episodic memory
  • Semantic memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neuroscience(all)

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  • Cite this

    Brizzolara, D., Casalini, C., Montanaro, D., & Posteraro, F. (2003). A case of amnesia at an early age. Cortex, 39(4-5), 605-625.