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Neuroimage. 2003 Nov;20 Suppl 1:S112-9.

Preserved verbal memory function in left medial temporal pathology involves reorganisation of function to right medial temporal lobe.

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  • 1Department of Clinical and Experimental Epilepsy, Institute of Neurology, Queen Square, London, WC1N 3BG, UK.


The left hippocampus and related structures mediate verbal memory function. The mechanism underlying preserved verbal memory function in patients with left hippocampal damage is unknown. Temporal lobe epilepsy, a common disease, is frequently the consequence of a characteristic hippocampal pathology termed hippocampal sclerosis, which may also affect the amygdala. In this setting, mapping the sites of memory function is a vital component of planning for surgical treatment for epilepsy. Using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging, we studied 24 right-handed nonamnesic patients with left hippocampal sclerosis and 12 normal controls, performing a verbal encoding task. The patients were subdivided into two groups according to presence or absence of additional left amygdala pathology. Analysis of the data employed a two-level random-effects design, examining the main effects of subsequent memory in each group, as well as the differences between the groups. Additional effects of emotionality of the remembered words were also examined. Verbal memory encoding involved activation of left hippocampus in normals, but was associated with reorganisation to right hippocampus and parahippocampal gyrus in the patients. The additional presence of left amygdala sclerosis resulted in reorganisation for encoding of emotional verbal material to right amygdala. Retained verbal memory function in the presence of left medial temporal lobe pathology is mediated by recruitment of a parallel system in the right hemisphere consistent with adaptive functional reorganisation. The findings indicate a high degree of plasticity in medial temporal lobe structures.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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