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The spontaneous memory symptoms of 100 brain-damaged patients suffering from a variety of conditions were elicited. The most frequent types of symptom related to memory for people's names, memory for recent events occurring a few days or weeks ago, memory for a spoken message and remembering to do something. The spontaneous symptoms from 50 non-brain-damaged patients were also elicited. There was a considerable degree of overlap between the type and incidence of symptoms in brain-damaged and control patients. Some symptoms (e.g. remembering people's names) were reported by a similar proportion of control as brain-damaged patients. A few symptoms (e.g. spatial disorientation, temporal disorientation) were reported by brain-damaged patients but not by any control patients. One symptom (remembering to do something) occurred more frequently in the control group of patients than in the brain-damaged group. The relationship between memory symptoms and memory performance was examined in a group of head-injured patients. A short questionnaire on memory symptoms was completed by each patient and by a close observer, and the head-injured subjects also performed tests of immediate and delayed recall. Although there was a highly significant correlation between degree of memory impairment as perceived by the patient and as perceived by an observer, there was generally a low correlation between subjective or observed memory impairment and scores on commonly used clinical memory tests.