Lateralization of spatial-memory processes: evidence on spatial span, maze learning, and memory for object locations

Neuropsychologia. 2002;40(8):1465-73. doi: 10.1016/s0028-3932(01)00199-3.


Spatial memory is one of the most important cognitive functions in daily life, enabling us to locate objects in our environment or to learn a route or a path. In the present study, we elaborated on the hypothesis that human spatial memory consists of multiple sub-processes, relying on different brain structures. Therefore, 50 patients with an ischemic stroke and 40 healthy participants underwent tests measuring spatial span and maze learning. By means of a computer paradigm the following aspects of memory for object locations were assessed: (1) object location binding; (2) positional memory; (3) a combination of these two aspects. The results clearly showed a double dissociation: the group of patients with an infarct in the left hemisphere (LH) was impaired on object location binding, whereas the group with an infarct in the right hemisphere (RH) was impaired on positional memory. Lesions in the RH resulted also in impairments on maze learning. Moreover, patients with lesions in the posterior part of the parietal or the occipital lobe performed especially worse on spatial-memory tasks. These findings extend the theoretical framework of categorical versus coordinate spatial processing in the human brain and corroborate previous findings on selective aspects of memory for object locations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Cerebral Infarction / diagnosis
  • Cerebral Infarction / physiopathology
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / physiology*
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*