What Is Anterograde Amnesia?

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Anterograde amnesia is a type of amnesia that refers to an inability to create new memories. This hinders the ability to learn something new.

The inability to create new memories means that people with anterograde amnesia forget things they just learned or experienced, like the identity of someone they just met or the meal they had earlier in the day. Anterograde amnesia is different from retrograde amnesia, which is the inability to remember old memories.

Anterograde amnesia is caused by damage to the memory-making parts of the brain and may be temporary or long-lasting. Living with anterograde amnesia can significantly affect everyday life and activities. While there is no cure, there are some tools and therapies that can help.

This article talks about the symptoms and causes of anterograde amnesia and possible treatment options that may help make living with anterograde amnesia a little easier.

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Anterograde Amnesia Symptoms

As anterograde amnesia affects the ability to create new memories, symptoms involve not being able to remember new information. For example, someone with anterograde amnesia may forget things like:

  • The last meal they ate
  • A new piece of information they learned
  • Someone they just met
  • A conversation they just had

Research has shown that anterograde amnesia and retrograde amnesia often occur together and near the same level of severity. This means that someone with anterograde amnesia may also have symptoms of retrograde amnesia, which affects the ability to remember past events.

However, the two conditions are different. Anterograde amnesia can be thought of as short-term memory loss. Someone with anterograde amnesia will have issues remembering things that happen after the event that caused their amnesia. This is different from retrograde amnesia, which affects the memory of what happened before the amnesia-causing event. 

While movies and videos may portray short-term memory loss (like Dory in Finding Nemo) in a lighthearted way, the condition can be severely debilitating. Problems with short-term memory add stress to everyday life and make relating to others more difficult as names and details about others escape the memory.

In addition, challenges with short-term memory can make it harder to store information for long-term memory.


Various factors can increase the risk of anterograde amnesia, each of which is an injury or trauma to the brain. Below are some causes of anterograde amnesia and where anterograde amnesia comes into play:

  • Benzodiazepine use: Benzodiazepines affect the central nervous system to produce various effects like sedation, reduced anxiety, muscle relaxation, and anterograde amnesia.
  • Korsakoff’s syndrome: Korsakoff’s syndrome is caused by vitamin B1 (thiamin) deficiency and is associated with alcohol use disorder. One of the symptoms of Korsakoff’s syndrome is anterograde amnesia.
  • Stroke: Stroke can cause damage to the hippocampus (an area of the brain involved in memory and learning), which can cause anterograde amnesia.
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT): ECT is an effective treatment for major depression. Anterograde amnesia is a common side effect.
  • Transient global amnesia (TGA): TGA is a clinical condition marked by a sudden, temporary onset of significant anterograde amnesia (and less so retrograde amnesia); the neurological cause of TGA is not well understood. 

As memory can be affected by several factors, the above is not a complete list of causes of anterograde amnesia. Most research on anterograde amnesia is specific to certain conditions or cases. More research is needed to give a complete picture of anterograde amnesia.


A healthcare provider may also ask questions or do a memory test to better understand the memory loss experienced and what may have caused the anterograde amnesia. For example, a healthcare provider may do the following as part of their diagnosis:

  • Ask when memory problems started
  • Assess whether short-term memory or long-term memory is affected
  • Gather a medical or family history to help determine an underlying cause

Determining what type of memories are affected—whether the memory of recent events or events from long ago—will help distinguish whether anterograde or retrograde amnesia is present. 

While difficulties recalling memories is common and normal, it’s important to distinguish anterograde amnesia from memory issues that happen as a normal part of aging or even during high-stress times (like brain fog).

Only a qualified healthcare provider can accurately diagnose anterograde amnesia, determine what may have caused it, and recommend the next steps, including treatment options.

A brain scan, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT), may be used to help diagnose the underlying cause of anterograde amnesia. A healthcare provider will use these images to determine if there are physical abnormalities in the brain. 


While there is no cure or medication for anterograde amnesia itself, it can be managed by treating the underlying condition. Therapies are also designed to help with learning since retaining new information is the hallmark of anterograde amnesia.

Anterograde amnesia does not affect implicit memory, a type of memory that doesn’t require the recollection of past events or information. People with anterograde amnesia may benefit from procedural learning and priming.

Procedural learning involves learning through motor and cognitive skills, such as riding a bike or driving a car. Research suggests that repetition of information, such as in procedural learning, can help with performing a task even when the memory of prior experience does not exist.

Priming involves giving cues to help someone learn, which, over time, can help them remember information with fewer cues.


Some cases of anterograde amnesia are temporary, while others are long-lasting. It depends on what caused the anterograde amnesia and whether that can be managed.

For example, severe damage to memory-forming parts of the brain may lead to permanent memory loss that worsens over time. However, in the case of transient global amnesia, anterograde amnesia is significant but temporary.


Living with anterograde amnesia can be debilitating, especially if it is long-term. The inability to learn new information can make it feel impossible to try new tasks or meet new people.

Close family members or friends can offer support by being available when memory fails and encouraging the person to seek help. Tools like reminder apps, notes, and journals can also help improve recall of information when connecting with others or completing tasks.


Anterograde amnesia is a type of amnesia marked by an inability to form new memories. This makes learning new information extremely difficult. Anterograde amnesia can be temporary or long-term.

Causes of anterograde amnesia are centered around injury or trauma to parts of the brain that are critical for memory. Determining the underlying cause of anterograde amnesia will help determine the appropriate treatment through management.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Emily Brown, MPH
Emily is a health communication consultant, writer, and editor at EVR Creative, specializing in public health research and health promotion. With a scientific background and a passion for creative writing, her work illustrates the value of evidence-based information and creativity in advancing public health.