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Development of shared information in communication despite hippocampal amnesia

Nature Neuroscience volume 9, pages 140146 (2006) | Download Citation

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Abstract

This study investigated the ability of individuals with amnesia to acquire referential labels across a series of collaborative, dynamic interactions with a communication partner. Despite their inability to learn arbitrary relations in paired-associate learning, the amnesic patients showed remarkably robust collaborative learning across trials, at a rate equal to that of normal comparison subjects. The amnesic participants' learning resulted in their arriving at labels for a set of abstract shapes (tangrams), thus facilitating rapid and efficient communication. The labels generated and used by the amnesics during interactions with their partners became simpler across trials, with most labels stabilizing long before the end of training and then being used consistently throughout; moreover, they endured long after the task had ended. These findings have important implications for understanding the memory systems involved in semantic learning and in acquiring shared knowledge ('common ground') among communication partners, and the nature of hippocampal-dependent versus hippocampal-independent learning.

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Acknowledgements

We thank W. Viechtbauer for conducting the statistical analyses, and K. McEnery, S. McWalter, C. Slovin and E. Whitebread for transcribing the sessions. This work was supported by grants from the US National Institute of Mental Health and National Science Foundation (N.J.C.) and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (D.T.).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Beckman Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 405 North Mathews Avenue, Urbana, Illinois 61801, USA.

    • Melissa C Duff
    •  & Neal J Cohen
  2. Department of Speech and Hearing Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 901 South Sixth Street, Champaign, Illinois 61820, USA.

    • Melissa C Duff
    •  & Julie Hengst
  3. Department of Neurology, University of Iowa, 200 Hawkins Drive, 2100-RCP Iowa City, Iowa 52242, USA.

    • Daniel Tranel

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Neal J Cohen.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Fig. 1

    Total word counts per trial.

  2. 2.

    Supplementary Table 1

    Demographic Information and Neuropsychological Assessment of Amnesic Participants

  3. 3.

    Supplementary Table 2

    Card descriptions on trial 1 by an amnesic individual and partner

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    Supplementary Table 3

  5. 5.

    Supplementary Methods

  6. 6.

    Supplementary Note

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nn1601

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