Preserved ability to recognize keywords related to remote events in the absence of retrieval of relevant knowledge: a case of postencephalitic amnesia.

Division of Neuropsychology, Department of Disability Medicine, Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine, 2-1 Seiryo-machi, Aoba-ku, Sendai 980-8575, Japan.
Brain and Cognition (Impact Factor: 2.82). 03/2003; 51(1):1-11. DOI: 10.1016/S0278-2626(02)00529-8
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT We describe a case of severe anterograde and retrograde amnesia resulting from herpes simplex encephalitis. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed pathological changes in the bilateral hippocampi, parahippocampal gyri, fusiform gyri, medial temporal poles, posterior part of the cingulate gyri, and insula. The patient showed severe amnesia for autobiographical episodic memory in relation to events that had occurred throughout her life, but temporally graded amnesia for autobiographical semantic memory, and severe amnesia without a temporal gradient for public events and famous people. However, using a multiple-choice method, she showed a high level of accuracy when choosing keywords related to public or personal events, although this did not prompt her recollection of the events. An important indication of these results is that, even with severe retrograde amnesia, memories of past events are not completely lost. We propose that an event may be stored in a fragmented form, consisting of many components, and that normal recall of an event may require recombination or reconstruction of these components.

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    ABSTRACT: This paper provides insight into the cognitive and neural mechanisms of personal semantic memory, knowledge that is specific and unique to individuals, by reviewing neuropsychological research on stable amnesia secondary to medial temporal lobe damage. The results reveal that personal semantic memory does not depend on a unitary set of cognitive and neural mechanisms. Findings show that autobiographical fact knowledge reflects an experience-near type of personal semantic memory that relies on the medial temporal lobe for retrieval, albeit less so than personal episodic memory. Additional evidence demonstrates that new autobiographical fact learning likely relies on the medial temporal lobe, but the extent to which remains unclear. Other findings show that retrieval of personal traits/roles and new learning of personal traits/roles and thoughts/beliefs are independent of the medial temporal lobe and thus may represent highly conceptual types of personal semantic memory that are stored in the neocortex.
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