Role of the medial temporal lobes in relational memory: neuropsychological evidence from a cued recognition paradigm

Kan IP, Giovanello KS, Schnyer DM, Makris N, Verfaellie M

Neuropsychologia 2007 Jun;45(11):2589-97

PMID: 17433382


In this study, we examined the role of the hippocampus in relational memory by comparing item recognition performance in amnesic patients with medial temporal lobe (MTL) damage and their matched controls. Specifically, we investigated the contribution of associative memory to item recognition using a cued recognition paradigm. Control subjects studied cue-target pairs once, whereas amnesic patients studied cue-target pairs six times. Following study, subjects made recognition judgments about targets that were presented either alone (no cue), with the originally presented cue (same cue), or with a cue that had been presented with a different target (recombined cue). Controls had higher recognition scores in the same cue than in the recombined cue condition, indicating that they benefited from the associative information provided by the same cue. By contrast, amnesic patients did not. This was true even for a subgroup of patients whose recognition performance in the no cue condition was matched to that of the controls. These data provide further support for the idea that the hippocampus plays a critical role in relational memory, even when associative information need not be retrieved intentionally.