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Cereb Cortex. 1996 May-Jun;6(3):530-9.

Distinctive forms of partial retrograde amnesia after asymmetric temporal lobe lesions: possible role of the occipitotemporal gyri in memory.

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  • 1Division of Neurology, Laboratory of Neuropsychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, College of Medicine, PA State University, Milton S Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, PA 17033, USA.


We tested the hypothesis that partial forms of retrograde amnesia were associated with highly asymmetric lesions to the inferior and anterior-medial temporal lobe. Postencephalitic subjects EK and DR were both impaired on standardized retrograde memory tests, but showed strikingly different profiles in cognitive tasks of name stem completion, name:face matching, temporal ordering, forced choice recognition, and occupational judgments of famous names and faces from the past 3 decades. EK sustained left inferior and anterior-medial temporal lobe lesion with a small right temporal polar lesion, and showed near-complete loss of retrieval, knowledge, and familiarity associated with famous names but minimal deficiencies with famous faces. DR sustained right inferior and anterior-medial temporal lobe lesion and showed a milder retrograde loss limited to utilizing famous face prompts in name stem completion, name:face matching, occupational judgments, and forced choice recognition. These impairments were also different from the memory retrieval deficit, but intact recognition shown by a case of ruptured anterior communicating artery aneurysm with presumed basal forebrain damage. We hypothesize that EK's extensive loss of famous name knowledge was related to left inferior temporal lobe damage, particularly in the lateral and medial occipitotemporal gyri. This region in the left temporal lobe may serve as a critical processing area for retrograde memory that permits activation of established semantic, temporal, and visual (i.e., facial) associations biographically dependent on the category of proper names. On the basis of connectional anatomy patterns in the nonhuman primate, this region receives extensive hippocampal output and is interconnected with the temporal polar region and cortical association areas, which have been implicated in retrieval and storage aspects of retrograde memory. In the right hemisphere, the occipitotemporal gyri may serve an important role in famous face processing as part of a bilateral neural network.

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