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Neuropsychologia. 2005;43(1):1-11.

Perceptual deficits in amnesia: challenging the medial temporal lobe 'mnemonic' view.

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MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, 15 Chaucer Road, Cambridge, UK.


Recent animal studies suggest that the medial temporal lobe (MTL), which is thought to subserve memory exclusively, may support non-mnemonic perceptual processes, with the hippocampus and perirhinal cortex contributing to spatial and object perception, respectively. There is, however, no support for this view in humans, with human MTL lesions causing prominent memory deficits in the context of apparently normal perception. We assessed visual discrimination in amnesic cases to reveal that while selective hippocampal damaged patients could discriminate faces, objects, abstract art and colour, they were significantly poorer in discriminating spatial scenes. By contrast, patients with MTL damage, including perirhinal cortex, were significantly impaired in discriminating scenes, faces, and to a lesser extent objects, with relatively intact discrimination of art and colour. These novel observations imply that the human MTL subserves both perceptual and mnemonic functions, with the hippocampus and perirhinal cortex playing distinct roles in spatial and object discrimination, respectively.

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