Memory may fail in a variety of ways. Patients with Korsakoff's syndrome demonstrate global memory deficits similar to those seen in patients with early progressive dementia. Korsakoff's patients, however, may recall rules and principles for organizing information and can gain access to their previously acquired knowledge (semantic memory), whereas recent memory may be grossly impaired. In contrast, dementia patients may have little access to previously acquired knowledge and therefore have great difficulty in organizing and encoding ongoing events. These contrasting forms of memory failure have implications for understanding the structure and mechanisms of memory and learning, particularly the relationship between episodic and semantic memory, as well as the development of therapeutic strategies for cognitive impairments.