The claim that recognition memory is spared relative to recall after focal hippocampal damage has been disputed in the literature. We examined this claim by investigating object and object-location recall and recognition memory in a patient, YR, who has adult-onset selective hippocampal damage. Our aim was to identify the conditions under which recognition was spared relative to recall in this patient. She showed unimpaired forced-choice object recognition but clearly impaired recall, even when her control subjects found the object recognition task to be numerically harder than the object recall task. However, on two other recognition tests, YR's performance was not relatively spared. First, she was clearly impaired at an equivalently difficult yes/no object recognition task, but only when targets and foils were very similar. Second, YR was clearly impaired at forced-choice recognition of object-location associations. This impairment was also unrelated to difficulty because this task was no more difficult than the forced-choice object recognition task for control subjects. The clear impairment of yes/no, but not of forced-choice, object recognition after focal hippocampal damage, when targets and foils are very similar, is predicted by the neural network-based Complementary Learning Systems model of recognition. This model postulates that recognition is mediated by hippocampally dependent recollection and cortically dependent familiarity; thus hippocampal damage should not impair item familiarity. The model postulates that familiarity is ineffective when very similar targets and foils are shown one at a time and subjects have to identify which items are old (yes/no recognition). In contrast, familiarity is effective in discriminating which of similar targets and foils, seen together, is old (forced-choice recognition). Independent evidence from the remember/know procedure also indicates that YR's familiarity is normal. The Complementary Learning Systems model can also accommodate the clear impairment of forced-choice object-location recognition memory if it incorporates the view that the most complete convergence of spatial and object information, represented in different cortical regions, occurs in the hippocampus.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cognitive Neuroscience