In Neuropsychology, what is Dysnomia?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2019
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Dysnomia is a type of memory disorder where people sometimes have difficulty recalling words and names. It is a form of nominal aphasia, a term used to refer to conditions where people cannot remember specific words, but is a mild form. Unlike anomia, where people cannot remember certain kinds of words at all, patients can experience intermittent memory problems and may have no trouble with recall in some situations. Treatment options are available, and depend on why the patient experiences memory problems.

One potential cause is a congenital condition. Some learning disorders can occur with dysnomia. Patients with brain trauma like strokes and head injuries may experience memory problems, which often resolve on their own after a set period of time. It is also possible to start losing the ability to name objects and people reliably as a result of degenerative neurological disease, in which case the problem will probably grow worse over time.

This can also be a symptom of a medical problem. Intoxication, low blood sugar, dehydration, and drug overdose, among other things, can all cause memory problems. Evaluation for many common medical issues known to involve the brain may include a quick neurological examination to see if patients have symptoms like dysnomia, difficulty remembering things, or trouble with simple concepts and tasks, like walking in a straight line.


Patients know the words, but are unable to retrieve them. Many people have a “tip of the tongue” feeling at some point during their lives, where they momentarily blank on the word they want to use. This is not necessarily a sign of a disorder. In dysnomia, the inability to remember words becomes a hindrance in daily activities, making it hard for people to communicate and accomplish tasks. People may notice that the frequency varies, depending on stress levels, fatigue, and other factors. These can be important diagnostic clues and may help patients develop appropriate coping mechanisms as well.

If the dysnomia is a symptom of another problem, treating the issue should resolve the memory issues. When it is part of a primary presentation of illness, it may not be possible to treat it, depending on the condition. For people with degenerative brain diseases, for example, some therapeutic activities can help with recall and memory formation, but ultimately the patient will experience increasing declines in brain function. For learning disorders, therapies are available to help children develop coping skills to manage dysnomia, but the underlying issue will persist.


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What is the difference between dysnomia and lethologica?

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