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Cortex. 2013 Jan;49(1):232-42. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2011.06.007. Epub 2011 Jun 22.

Familiarity and recollection in Williams syndrome.

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Department of Neuroscience, IRCCS Children's Hospital Bambino Gesù, Rome, Italy.


Interest is being shown in a componential analysis of performance on declarative memory tasks that distinguishes two different kinds of access to stored memories, recollection and familiarity. From a developmental perspective, it has been hypothesized that recollection emerges later and shows more developmental changes than familiarity. Nevertheless, the contribution of recollection and familiarity to the recognition performance of individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID) has been rarely examined. The present study was aimed at investigating the qualitative profile of declarative long-term memory in a group of individuals with Williams syndrome (WS). We compared 13 individuals with WS and 13 mental-age-matched typically developing children in two different experimental paradigms to assess the contribution of familiarity and recollection to recognition performance. We adopted a modified version of the process dissociation procedure and a task dissociation procedure, both of which are suited to individuals with ID. Results of both experimental paradigms demonstrated reduced recollection and spared familiarity in the declarative memory performances of individuals with WS. These results provide direct evidence of a dissociation between recollection and familiarity in a neurodevelopmental disorder and are discussed in relation to alternative approaches for explaining abnormal cognition in individuals with ID.

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