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Adv Neurol. 1991;55:385-410.

Memory dysfunction in epilepsy patients as a derangement of normal physiology.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of California, Los Angeles 90024.


Patients with CPS often display recent memory deficits. Typically, general intelligence, perceptual skills, language, remote memory, and primary memory are all normal. However, the ability to learn new combinations of cognitively complex material is deficient. This deficit may be specific for verbal material (e.g., as a difficulty with learning to recall a response word given an unrelated cue word), for nonverbal material (e.g., as a difficulty in drawing a complex figure from memory), or for both verbal and nonverbal material. Because these characteristics are typical of memory deficits after MTL damage, it is reasonable to suspect that these deficits in patients with epilepsy also reflect MTL damage. In many cases, MTL damage is apparent from neuroimaging studies, whereas seizure semiology suggests MTL onset. In these patients, the same pathology might be the cause of both the ictus and memory deficits. In other cases, memory impairment appears to be secondary to seizures. This suggestion is supported by cases where prolonged complex partial status resulted in a permanent global amnesia. Cases with shorter-lasting memory deficits were also presented. Neuropsychological testing revealed specific recent-memory deficits that cleared 2 weeks after a flurry of CPS and 24 hr after a single seizure. Depth recordings have demonstrated that MTL electrographic seizures can occur without subjective manifestations. When these are evoked by local electrical stimulation, a profound inability to learn new material may be observed during the afterdischarge. Similarly, artificially induced MTL spike-and-wave complexes interfere with the memory for simultaneously presented complex visual scenes. Recent evidence suggests that all of the above phenomena may reflect the engagement by epileptiform processes of the association-cortex (AC)-MTL circuits used in normal human memory. In recent memory tasks, cognitive evoked-potential components N4 and P3 are generated in the MTL and to a lesser degree in related AC regions. The N4/P3 are strongly modulated by familiarity in recent memory. This modulation is eliminated by anterior temporal lobectomy. The typical slow wave following spontaneous MTL interictal spikes has the same MTL voltage topography, and thus probably similar synaptic generators, as the cognitive P3 potential. Furthermore, MTL spike-and-wave complexes can be evoked in recent memory tasks at a fixed latency equal to that of the N4.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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