Intact Haptic Priming in Normal Aging and Alzheimer's Disease: Evidence for Dissociable Memory Systems

Neuropsychologia. 2004;42(8):1063-70. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2003.12.008.


This study is the first to report complete priming in Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients and older control subjects for objects presented haptically. To investigate possible dissociations between implicit and explicit objects representations, young adults, Alzheimer's patients, and older controls performed a speeded object naming task followed by a recognition task. Similar haptic priming was exhibited by the three groups, although young adults responded faster than the two older groups. Furthermore, there was no difference in performance between the two healthy groups. On the other hand, younger and older healthy adults did not differ on explicit recognition while, as expected, AD patients were highly impaired. The double dissociation suggests that different memory systems mediate both types of memory tasks. The preservation of intact haptic priming in AD provides strong support to the idea that object implicit memory is mediated by a memory system that is different from the medial-temporal diencephalic system underlying explicit memory, which is impaired early in AD. Recent imaging and behavioral studies suggest that the implicit memory system may depend on extrastriate areas of the occipital cortex although somatosensory cortical mechanisms may also be involved.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis*
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Diencephalon / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Mental Recall / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Stereognosis / physiology*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiopathology
  • Touch / physiology*
  • Verbal Behavior / physiology*