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  1. Margaret M. Keane1,
  2. Mieke Verfaellie2

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0050

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Keane, M. M. and Verfaellie, M. 2010. Amnesia. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–3.

Author Information

  1. 1

    Wellesley College

  2. 2

    Boston University School of Medicine and VA Boston Healthcare System

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


Our current understanding of amnesia owes much to the study of the patient HM, who in 1953, at the age of 26, underwent bilateral removal of structures in the medial temporal lobe (MTL) for treatment of intractable epilepsy. The surgery was largely successful in controlling his seizures, and it did not affect his sense of personal identity, his general fund of knowledge, or his social skills, but it left him with a global amnesia—he had a profound impairment in the ability to form new memories for events and information that he encountered after his surgery (Corkin, 1984). Thus, for example, he could not remember the plot of a movie he saw recently, could not recall what he ate at his last meal, and could not recognize the names or faces of new acquaintances. In the laboratory, HM showed profound impairments in recalling or recognizing recently presented lists of words, pictures, and other stimuli. He also showed impaired recall of events prior to his surgery, but could retrieve memories from his early life, prior to about age 16. With insights gleaned from studies of HM and subsequently from other amnesic individuals, we have achieved a more complete understanding not only of the amnesic syndrome, but also of the functional and neural architecture of normal human memory.


  • amnesia;
  • hippocampus;
  • declarative memory;
  • implicit memory