In humans, anterograde amnesia can result from damage to the medial temporal (MT) lobes (including hippocampus), as well as to other brain areas such as basal forebrain. Results from animal classical conditioning studies suggest that there may be qualitative differences in the memory impairment following MT vs. basal forebrain damage. Specifically, delay eyeblink conditioning is spared after MT damage in animals and humans, but impaired in animals with basal forebrain damage. Recently, we have likewise shown delay eyeblink conditioning impairment in humans with amnesia following anterior communicating artery (ACoA) aneurysm rupture, which damages the basal forebrain. Another associative learning task, a computer-based concurrent visual discrimination, also appears to be spared in MT amnesia while ACoA amnesics are slower to learn the discriminations. Conversely, animal and computational models suggest that, even though MT amnesics may learn quickly, they may learn qualitatively differently from controls, and these differences may result in impaired transfer when familiar information is presented in novel combinations. Our initial data suggests such a two-phase learning and transfer task may provide a double dissociation between MT amnesics (spared initial learning but impaired transfer) and ACoA amnesics (slow initial learning but spared transfer). Together, these emerging data suggest that there are subtle but dissociable differences in the amnesic syndrome following damage to the MT lobes vs. basal forebrain, and that these differences may be most visible in non-declarative tasks such as eyeblink classical conditioning and simple associative learning.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology