Measuring forgetting: a critical review of accelerated long-term forgetting studies.

Gemma Elliott, Claire L Isaac, Nils Muhlert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Accelerated long-term forgetting (ALF) refers to abnormal forgetting over hours to weeks despite normal acquisition or initial consolidation. Since standardised assessments of memory typically only test at delays of up to 40-minutes, ALF may go undetected in clinical practice. The memory difficulties associated with ALF can however cause considerable distress to patients. It is important therefore that clinicians are aware that ALF may represent a distinct phenomenon that will require additional and careful assessment to aid patients' understanding of the condition and assist in developing strategies to address its effects. At the same time, ALF may also provide insight into long-term memory processes. Studies of ALF in patients with epilepsy have so far demonstrated mixed results, which may reflect differences in methodology. This review explores the methodological issues that can affect forgetting, such as the effects of age, general cognitive function, test sensitivity and initial learning. It then evaluates the extent to which existing studies have considered these key issues. We outline the points to consider when designing ALF studies that can be used to help improve their validity. These issues can also help to explain some of the mixed findings in studies of ALF and inform the design of standardised tests for assessing ALF in clinical practice.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCortex: a journal devoted to the study of the nervous system and behavior
Publication statusPublished - May 2014


  • Accelerated long-term forgetting
  • Epilepsy
  • Forgetting rates
  • Methodology


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