Remote spatial memory in an amnesic person with extensive bilateral hippocampal lesions


The hippocampus may have a time-limited role in memory, being needed only until information is permanently stored elsewhere, or this region may permanently represent long-term allocentric spatial information or cognitive maps in memory. To test these ideas, we investigated remote spatial memory in K.C., a patient with bilateral hippocampal lesions and amnesia for autobiographical events. In his spatial knowledge, general aspects were preserved, but details were lost, a pattern that resembled his memory loss in other domains. K.C. performed normally on allocentric spatial tests of his neighborhood and the world. He had difficulty, however, in recognizing and identifying non-salient neighborhood landmarks, and in recognizing city locations on world maps. This suggests that the hippocampus is not crucial for maintenance and retrieval of remotely formed spatial representations of major landmarks, routes, distances and directions, but is necessary for specifying location details, regardless of when they were acquired.

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Figure 1: Magnetic resonance imaging slices showing K.C.'s pathology.


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We thank E. Tulving, I. Whishaw and G. Winocur for advice and discussions. This work was supported by a Medical Research Council of Canada (MRC) grant to M.M. and G.W. and formed part of R.S.R.'s University of Toronto Master's Thesis (June 1999).

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Correspondence to R. Shayna Rosenbaum or Morris Moscovitch.

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