A case of psychogenic fugue: I understand, aber ich verstehe nichts

  • Glisky E
  • Ryan L
  • Reminger S
 et al. 
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Psychogenic fugue is a disorder of memory that occurs following emotional or psychological trauma and results in a loss of one's personal past including personal identity. This paper reports a case of psychogenic fugue in which the individual lost access not only to his autobiographical memories but also to his native German language. A series of experiments compared his performance on a variety of memory and language tests to several groups of control participants including German-English bilinguals who performed the tasks normally or simulated amnesia for the German language. Neuropsychological, behavioral, electrophysiological and functional neuroimaging tests converged on the conclusion that this individual suffered an episode of psychogenic fugue, during which he lost explicit knowledge of his personal past and his native language. At the same time, he appeared to retain implicit knowledge of autobiographical facts and of the semantic or associative structure of the German language. The patient's poor performance on tests of executive control and reduced activation of frontal compared to parietal brain regions during lexical decision were suggestive of reduced frontal function, consistent with models of psychogenic fugue proposed by Kopelman [The Handbook of Memory Disorders, 2nd ed., Wiley, Chichester, 2002, p. 451] and Markowitsch [Memory, Consciousness, and the Brain, Psychology Press, Philadelphia, 2000, p. 319]. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Autobiographical memory
  • Dissociative amnesia
  • Functional amnesia
  • Implicit memory
  • Memory disorders

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