Article abstract

Nature Neuroscience 11, 834 - 842 (2008)
Published online: 15 June 2008 | doi:10.1038/nn.2149

A disproportionate role for the fornix and mammillary bodies in recall versus recognition memory

Dimitris Tsivilis1,4, Seralynne D Vann2,4, Christine Denby1, Neil Roberts3, Andrew R Mayes1, Daniela Montaldi1 & John P Aggleton2

Uncovering the functional relationship between temporal lobe amnesia and diencephalic amnesia depends on determining the role of the fornix, the major interlinking fiber tract. In this study relating fornix volume with memory, we made magnetic resonance imaging–based volume estimates of 13 brain structures in 38 individuals with surgically removed colloid cysts. Fornix status was assessed directly by overall volume and indirectly by mammillary body volume (which atrophies after fornix damage). Mammillary body volume significantly correlated with 13 out of 14 tests of episodic memory recall, but correlated poorly with recognition memory. Furthermore, as the volumes of the left fornix and the left mammillary bodies decreased, the difference between recall and recognition scores increased. No other structure was consistently associated with memory. These findings support models of diencephalic memory mechanisms that require hippocampal inputs for recall, but not for key elements of recognition.

  1. School of Psychological Sciences, Zochonis Building, University of Manchester, Brunswick Street, Manchester, M13 9PL, UK.
  2. School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Park Place, Cardiff, Wales CF10 3AT, UK.
  3. Magnetic Resonance and Image Analysis Research Centre, University of Liverpool, Pembroke Place, Liverpool, L69 3GE, UK.
  4. These authors contributed equally to this work.

Correspondence to: Dimitris Tsivilis1,4 e-mail:


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