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June 2000

Retrograde Amnesia With Electroconvulsive Therapy: Characteristics and Implications

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2000;57(6):591-592. doi:10-1001/pubs.Arch Gen Psychiatry-ISSN-0003-990x-57-6-ycm20105

SINCE ITS beginning, more than 60 years ago, it has been recognized that electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) (ie, the electrical induction of a series of grand mals–type seizures for therapeutic purposes) is often associated with amnesia; this amnesia represents the most bothersome side effect to many individuals who receive this treatment.1 The phenomenologic characteristics of ECT-associated amnesia are reminiscent of many other types of organic amnesia, in that it typically consists of difficulties in retention of both newly learned material (anterograde amnesia) and past events (retrograde amnesia [RA]).2 Retrograde amnesia is generally believed to be the more problematic than anterograde amnesia with ECT, at least as far as long-lasting effects are concerned.3,4

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