Memory outside the hippocampus

ScienceDaily reports (here) on a paper by Bindschaedler, Peter-Favre, Maeder, Hirsbrunner, Clarke in Cortex, Growing up with bilateral hippocampal atrophy: From childhood to teenage.

A child with damage to the hippocampus at birth did have some memory: memory of events was affected but not memory of general knowledge. His episodic memory was almost 90% gone while his semantic memory was within normal levels. This means that the two types of declarative memory (memory that can be accessed consciously) are different and that semantic memory is not just a consolidation of episodic memory.

The paper also seems to discuss evidence that recall and familiarity are separate.

Here is the abstract of the paper:

The respective roles of the medial temporal lobe (MTL) structures in memory are controversial. Some authors put forward a modular account according to which episodic memory and recollection-based processes are crucially dependent on the hippocampal formation whereas semantic acquisition and familiarity-based processes rely on the adjacent parahippocampal gyri. Others defend a unitary view.

We report the case of VJ, a boy with developmental amnesia of most likely perinatal onset diagnosed at the age of 8. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), including quantitative volumetric measurements of the hippocampal formation and of the entorhinal, perirhinal, and temporopolar cortices, showed severe, bilateral atrophy of the hippocampal formation, fornix and mammillary bodies; by contrast, the perirhinal cortex was within normal range and the entorhinal and temporopolar cortex remained within two standard deviations (SDs) from controlsÂ’ mean. We examined the development of his semantic knowledge from childhood to teenage as well as his recognition and cued recall memory abilities. On tasks tapping semantic memory, VJ increased his raw scores across years at the same rate as children from large standardisation samples, except for one task; he achieved average performance, consistent with his socio-educational background. He performed within normal range on 74% of recognition tests and achieved average to above average scores on 42% of them despite very severe impairment on 82% of episodic recall tasks. Both faces and landscapes-scenes gave rise to above average scores when tested with coloured stimuli. Cued recall, although impaired, was largely superior to free recall.

This case supports a modular account of the MTL with episodic, but not semantic memory depending on the hippocampal formation. Furthermore, the overall pattern of findings is consistent with evidence from both brain-damaged and neuroimaging studies indicating that recollection requires intact hippocampal formation and familiarity relies, at least partly, on the adjacent temporal lobe cortex.

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