Fifty-nine patients with temporal-lobe epilepsy (28 left, 31 right) completed the Boston Naming Test (BNT), verbal subtests of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised, and the Logical Memory Subtest of the Wechsler Memory Scale (WMS) before surgery. Performances by patients with left temporal seizure foci were significantly more impaired than those of patients with right seizure foci on the WMS Logical Memory subtest and the BNT. After surgical removal of the mesial temporal lobe structures, two blinded observers established volumetric cell densities for hippocampal subfields CA1, CA2, CA3, the hilar area, and the granule cell layer of area dentata. Statistically significant correlations existed only between percent retention scores and hippocampal neuron loss in CA3 and the hilar area for patients with left temporal seizure foci. None of the other dependent measures was significantly correlated with hippocampal neuron density in any subfield. These results support the hypothesis that certain verbal memory impairments are attributable to hippocampal damage specifically, and not to temporal lobe damage in general.