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J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 1994 Jan;57(1):27-34.

Pure amnesia after unilateral left polar thalamic infarct: topographic and sequential neuropsychological and metabolic (PET) correlations.

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Division autonome de Neuropsychologie, CHUV, Lausanne, Switzerland.


A 54-year-old patient who had an isolated small polar thalamic infarct and acute global amnesia with slight frontal type dysfunction but without other neurological dysfunction was studied. Memory improved partially within 8 months. At all stages the impairment was more severe for verbal than non-verbal memory. Autobiographic recollections and newly acquired information tended to be disorganised with respect to temporal order. Procedural memory was unaffected. Both emotional involvement and pleasure in reading were lost. On MRI, the infarct was limited to the left anterior thalamic nuclei and the adjacent mamillothalamic tract. The regional cerebral metabolic rate of glucose (measured with PET) was decreased on the left in the thalamus, amygdala, and posterior cingulate cortex 2 weeks after the infarct, and in the thalamus and posterior cingulate cortex 9 months later. These findings stress the specific role of the left anterior thalamic region in memory and confirm that longlasting amnesia from a thalamic lesion can occur without significant structural damage to the dorsomedial nucleus. Furthermore, they suggest that the anterior thalamic nuclei and possibly their connections with the posterior cingulate cortex play a role in emotional involvement linked to ipsilateral hemispheric functions.

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