Bilateral hippocampal pathology impairs topographical and episodic memory but not visual pattern matching

Hippocampus. 2001;11(6):715-25. doi: 10.1002/hipo.1087.


A virtual reality environment was used to test memory performance for simulated "real-world" spatial and episodic information in a 22-year-old male, Jon, who has selective bilateral hippocampal pathology caused by perinatal anoxia. He was allowed to explore a large-scale virtual reality town and was then tested on his memory for spatial layout and for episodes experienced. Topographical memory was tested by assessing his ability to navigate, recognize previously visited locations, and draw maps of the town. Episodic memory was assessed by testing the retrieval of simulated events which consisted of collecting objects from characters while following a route through the virtual town. Memory for the identity of objects, as well as for where they were collected, from whom, and in what order, was also tested. While the first task tapped simple recognition memory, the latter three tested memory for context. Jon was impaired on all topographical tasks and on his recall of the context-dependent questions. However, his recognition of objects from the virtual town, and of "topographical" scenes (as evaluated by standard neuropsychological tests), was not impaired. These findings are consistent with the view that the hippocampus is involved in navigation, recall of long term allocentric spatial information and context-dependent episodic memory, but not visual pattern matching.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Brain Diseases / psychology*
  • Child
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Dominance, Cerebral*
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Mental Recall / physiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology
  • Space Perception / physiology
  • User-Computer Interface