Malingering and retrograde amnesia: The historic case of The Collegno Amnesic

Stefano Zago, Giuseppe Sartori, Guglielmo Scarlato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Assessment of feigned cognitive disorders is an important field of neuropsychology because of its applications to forensic settings. Strategies for detecting malingering in amnesia are available for anterograde amnesia. Less attention has been given to malingering in retrograde amnesia. The case of the 'Smemorato di Collegno' (The Collegno Amnesic) is probably the most famous case of malingered retrograde amnesia ever known in Italy. In 1926, a man who appeared to have lost all his autobiographical memories and identity spent nearly a year in the Collegno asylum of Turin without a name. He was later initially identified as Giulio Canella, Director of the 'Scuola Normale di Verona' who had disappeared during the war in 1916. He was suspected of later identified as being Mario Bruneri, a petty crook from Turin who played the part of an amnesic whose retrograde memory gradually returned. A lengthy investigation was required before this conclusion was reached. Several clinicians and renowned academics evaluated the case, but only Alfredo Coppola, diagnosed "malingered retrograde amnesia" using a method that was extremely innovative for the times. The aim of the present paper is to review the original cognitive evaluation and the strategies used for malingering detection in the "Collegno case". The outcome of the case is then discussed in the light of present-day forensic neuropsychology and the level of advancement of mental examination achieved in the 1920s in Europe is highlighted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)519-532
Number of pages14
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • Collegno's amnesic
  • Malingering amnesia
  • Retrograde amnesia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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