Dissociative amnesia is one of the most enigmatic and controversial psychiatric disorders. In the past two decades, interest in the understanding of its pathophysiology has surged.
In this report, we review new data about the epidemiology, neurobiology, and neuroimaging of dissociative amnesia and show how advances in memory research and neurobiology of dissociation inform proposed pathogenetic models of the disorder.
Dissociative amnesia is characterised by functional impairment. Additionally, preliminary data suggest that affected people have an increased and possibly underestimated suicide risk.
The prevalence of dissociative amnesia differs substantially across countries and populations.
Symptoms and disease course also vary, indicating a possibly heterogeneous disorder. The accompanying clinical features differ across cultural groups. Most dissociative amnesias are retrograde, with memory impairments mainly involving the episodic-autobiographical memory domain. Anterograde dissociative amnesia occurring without significant retrograde memory impairments is rare. Functional neuroimaging studies of dissociative amnesia with prevailing retrograde memory impairments show changes in the network that subserves autobiographical memory.
At present, no evidence-based treatments are available for dissociative amnesia and no broad framework exists for its rehabilitation. Further research is needed into its neurobiology, course, treatment options, and strategies to improve differential diagnoses.
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