Perspectives on object-recognition memory following hippocampal damage: lessons from studies in rats

Behav Brain Res. 2001 Dec 14;127(1-2):159-81. doi: 10.1016/s0166-4328(01)00367-9.


One of the routine memory abilities impaired in amnesic patients with temporal-lobe damage is object-recognition memory--the ability to discriminate the familiarity of previously encountered objects. Reproducing this impairment has played a central role in animal models of amnesia during the past two decades, and until recent years most of the emphasis was on describing how hippocampal damage could impair object recognition. Today most investigators are looking outside the hippocampus to explain the impairment. This paper reviews studies of object-recognition memory in rats with hippocampal damage produced by ablation, fornix transection, or forebrain ischemia. Some new perspectives on previous findings reinforce the conclusion that damage to the hippocampus has little if any impact on the ability to recognize objects, while damage in some areas outside the hippocampus is far more effective. The few circumstances in which hippocampal damage can impair performance on object-recognition tasks are situations where ancillary abilities are likely to play a significant role in supporting task performance. Some of the factors that contributed to the origins and persistence of the hippocampalcentric view of object-recognition are considered, including lesion confounds, failure to distinguish between impaired task performance and impairment of a memory ability, and disproportionate attention to a few lesion studies in monkeys, even though the hypothesis was tested far more times in rats, under a greater variety of conditions, and rejected on nearly every occasion.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Form Perception*
  • Fornix, Brain / physiology
  • Haplorhini
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Recognition, Psychology