Unilateral temporal lobectomy patients show lateralized topographical and episodic memory deficits in a virtual town

Brain. 2001 Dec;124(Pt 12):2476-89. doi: 10.1093/brain/124.12.2476.


A large-scale virtual reality town was used to test the topographical and episodic memory of patients with unilateral temporal lobe damage. Seventeen right and 13 left temporal lobectomy patients were compared with 16 healthy matched control subjects. After they had explored the town, subjects' topographical memory was tested by requiring them to navigate to specific locations in the town. The ability to recognize scenes from and draw maps of the virtual town was also assessed. Following the topographical memory tests, subjects followed a route around the same town but now collected objects from two different characters in two different locations. Episodic memory for various aspects of these events was then assessed by paired forced-choice recognition tests. The results showed an interaction between laterality and test type such that the right temporal lobectomy (RTL) patients were worse on tests of topographical memory, and the left temporal lobectomy (LTL) patients worse on tests of context-dependent episodic memory. Specifically, the RTL group was impaired on navigation, scene recognition and map drawing relative to control subjects. They were also impaired on recognition of objects in the episodic memory task. The LTL group was impaired relative to control subjects on their memory for contextual aspects of the events, such as who gave them the objects, the order in which objects were received and the locations in which they received them. They were also mildly impaired on topographical memory, but less so than the RTL group. These results suggest that topographical memory is predominately mediated by structures in the right medial temporal lobe, whereas the context-dependent aspects of episodic memory in this non-verbal test are more dependent on the left medial temporal lobe.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology*
  • Epilepsy / surgery*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / etiology
  • Memory Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Space Perception
  • Temporal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Temporal Lobe / surgery*
  • User-Computer Interface