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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Jul 3;98(14):8101-6.

Brain activity evidence for recognition without recollection after early hippocampal damage.

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Department of Neurology II, Otto von Guericke University, Magdeburg 39120, Germany.


Amnesic patients with early and seemingly isolated hippocampal injury show relatively normal recognition memory scores. The cognitive profile of these patients raises the possibility that this recognition performance is maintained mainly by stimulus familiarity in the absence of recollection of contextual information. Here we report electrophysiological data on the status of recognition memory in one of the patients, Jon. Jon's recognition of studied words lacks the event-related potential (ERP) index of recollection, viz., an increase in the late positive component (500--700 ms), under conditions that elicit it reliably in normal subjects. On the other hand, a decrease of the ERP amplitude between 300 and 500 ms, also reliably found in normal subjects, is well preserved. This so-called N400 effect has been linked to stimulus familiarity in previous ERP studies of recognition memory. In Jon, this link is supported by the finding that his recognized and unrecognized studied words evoked topographically distinct ERP effects in the N400 time window. These data suggest that recollection is more dependent on the hippocampal formation than is familiarity, consistent with the view that the hippocampal formation plays a special role in episodic memory, for which recollection is so critical.

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