A comparison of egocentric and allocentric spatial memory in medial temporal lobe and Korsakoff amnesics

Cortex. 1999 Sep;35(4):479-501. doi: 10.1016/s0010-9452(08)70814-1.


Two patients with medial temporal lobe damage, seven Korsakoff amnesics and fourteen healthy control subjects were tested on three conditions of a spatial memory test ('short delay', 'allocentric' and 'egocentric'). The task required subjects to recall the position of a single spot of light presented on a board after various delays. The 'short delay' condition tested memory over very short, unfilled intervals. The other two conditions used longer, filled delays. The allocentric condition required subjects to move to a different place around the board before recalling the position of the light. In the egocentric condition stimuli were presented in darkness, which eliminated allocentric cues. The Korsakoff amnesics were impaired at all delays of the short delay tasks, suggesting poor encoding. On the allocentric and egocentric tasks the Korsakoff amnesics showed a comparable impairment in the two conditions, which worsened with delay. This accelerated forgetting suggested that the Korsakoff amnesics also had impaired memory for allocentric and egocentric information. The patients with medial temporal lobe damage were unimpaired in the 'short delay' condition suggesting intact encoding and short-term memory of spatial information. However, they were impaired in the allocentric condition and showed accelerated loss of allocentric spatial information. In the egocentric condition, while the performance of one patient was impaired, the performance of the other was as good as controls. This result suggests that, in contrast to allocentric spatial memory, which is sensitive to medial temporal lobe damage, an intact medial temporal lobe need not be necessary for successful performance on an egocentric spatial memory task.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Amnesia / pathology
  • Amnesia / physiopathology
  • Amnesia / psychology*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Korsakoff Syndrome / pathology
  • Korsakoff Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Korsakoff Syndrome / psychology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Temporal Lobe / pathology
  • Temporal Lobe / physiopathology*