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Remote semantic memory in patients with Korsakoff's syndrome and herpes encephalitis
journal contributionposted on 2023-07-26, 13:26 authored by Michael D. Kopelman, Peter Bright, Helena Fulker, Nicola Hinton, Amy Morrison, Mieke Verfaellie
Performance of patients with Korsakoff's syndrome and herpes encephalitis was compared on a retrograde amnesia (RA) test, asking subjects to recall and recognize the definitions of words that had come into the language at different time periods. Performance was also compared on a related test in which participants were asked to produce the words to definitions they were given in free recall and cued recall versions. It was hypothesized that, if the temporal gradient in remote memory results from a shift of information from episodic to semantic memory, then there should be a temporal gradient on these tasks, possibly steeper (i.e., greater relative sparing of early memories) in the patients in the Korsakoff group than in the herpes encephalitis group, who have widespread temporal lobe damage. Furthermore, in comparing semantic and episodic remote memory tests, consolidation theory would predict uniform temporal gradients across such tasks, whereas multiple trace theory would predict a differential pattern. The results showed that patients with Korsakoff's syndrome and patients with herpes encephalitis were significantly impaired across all time periods on the vocabulary tests, with only minimal evidence of temporal gradients, relative to healthy participants, and there was no evidence of a differential pattern of impairment between the two patient groups. Comparison with performance on measures of episodic retrograde amnesia, in which there was a differential pattern of temporal gradient, suggests that the relative preservation of early episodic remote memories in patients with Korsakoff's syndrome does not result from an episodic-to-semantic shift in the quality with which memories are stored. These findings are discussed in relation to existing theories of RA and to the patients' underlying patterns of neuropathology.
PublisherAmerican Psychological Association