Brain damage may occur through a concussion and a blow to the head with the result being a form of memory loss known as amnesia. The person may then not be able to recall the events that up to the blow or events after it and two forms of amnesia are used to describe this:

Retrograde Amnesia: This is when individuals are unable to recall the events before the blow to the head or injury occurred and affected memories prior to this point.

Anterograde Amnesia: This is when people are unable to recall events immediately after the head injury as it affects the creation of new memories for a period.

Brain Damage Through Viral Infections

Clive Wearing Case Study

Brain damage may also occur through certain viruses which can damage the brain. One specific case study involved Clive Wearing who was a famous musician and music producer who contracted a virus that damaged his hippocampus. The result was he displayed symptoms which included extreme emotional behaviours but also damage to his memories both past memories (retrograde amnesia) and the creation of new memories (anterograde amnesia). – Check out the video of Clive Wearing below.

Studies of forgetting –  Brain Damage – Anterograde Amnesia

Scoville and Milner (1957) – The Study Of H.M.

Scoville and Milner (1957) conducted surgery on a patient to relieve severe epilepsy and to investigate if this had an affect on memory for the patient (H.M.). The method involved severing the connections between the two parts of the brain as well as removing most of H.M.’s hippocampus in an attempt to dampen the spread of the apparent random brain cell activity which caused his epileptic seizures. The results were it reduced his epileptic seizures but also resulted in anterograde amnesia as H.M. was unable to form memories of new events. Other parts of his memory remained intact however. The conclusions drawn were the damage to the hippocampus resulted in anterograde amnesia in patients.

Dementia: Alzheimer’s Disease and Strokes

Memory loss and brain damage can also occur through diseases such as Alzheimer’s. This occurs when brain cells die and important brain chemicals are not produced. This can lead to confusion, problems in speech as well as understanding others.

Strokes occur when blood clots form in the brain preventing blood reaching brain tissue. This causes blood vessels to rupture and damage surrounding brain areas. Memory loss and dementia can also be caused by Korsakoff’s syndrome which is caused by heavy alcohol use.

Practical applications of brain damage explanations of forgetting.

Anterograde Amnesia and Alzheimers Disease

Understanding how Alzheimers disease affects people is helpful as this helps us become aware of the symptoms to look out for but also how to offer improved levels of care for sufferers. For example noticing that individuals display problems in short-term memory creation is one obvious sign for early onset of Alzheimer’s disease. This is helpful as we can also predict the possible problems they may face due to symptoms and take steps to avoid such problems improving levels of care.

Studies Of Forgetting – Brain Damage – Retrograde Amnesia

Warrington (1971) – The Study of E.A.

Warrington (1971) conducted a study to compare the brain damage of a patient known as E.A. who suffered from Korsokoff’s syndrome, to people without brain damage. E.A. developed Korsokoff’s syndrome due to heavy alcohol use and was found to suffer from severe retrograde amnesia. When showed pictures of famous people he was only able to name 7 of them however non-brain damaged participants were able to name on average 13. The conclusion here was alcohol abuse caused the onset of retrograde amnesia and Korsokoff’s syndrome.

How to reference/cite this information:

Retrograde & Anterograde Amnesia –


Are you sure you don't want free resources for psychology?

There's no catch.

Why not join the mailing list for free resources? Theres no catch and its all completely free! Theres no spam either and we don't share your email with anyone - guarunteed.

100% secure - No Spam guaruntee.

Are You Studying Or Teaching GCSE Psychology?!

Enter Your Email Address & I'll Send You Free Resources For All The Exam Boards! (AQA, Edexcel, OCR and WJEC)