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Neuropsychologia. 2007 Jun 18;45(11):2467-79. Epub 2007 Apr 8.

Bilateral damage to the mammillo-thalamic tract impairs recollection but not familiarity in the recognition process: a single case investigation.

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Neurology Clinic, Tor Vergata University, Rome, Italy.


Focal damage confined to the hippocampus may result in recognition deficits characterized by a dissociation between impaired recollection and preserved familiarity. Here, we report a single case of an amnesic patient with bilateral damage to the anterior part of the thalamus, who presented with a neuropsychological profile suggesting such a dissociation. We hypothesized that this focal damage involved the so-called Delay and Brion's circuit, which has been theorized to subserve episodic memory processes, but at a different anatomical level than in patients with hippocampal lesions. Using two independent experimental paradigms (remember/know and confidence receiver operating characteristics [ROC]) and recruiting a sex- and age-matched group of healthy controls, we demonstrated that this patient's recognition deficits were due to a selective impairment of recollection with a normal familiarity process. The patient underwent an ad hoc brain MRI study, and a quantitative analysis of his MR images was performed. Tissue damage extended bilaterally to the mammillo-thalamic tract, with complete preservation of the medio-dorsal thalamic nuclei. Our findings support the idea that the same functional specialization hypothesized for the different sub-regions of the mesial temporal lobe might also extend to the thalamus. This case will be discussed in light of its implications in support of recent theories, which regard recollection and familiarity as independent processes associated with different neural circuits.

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