The neuroanatomy of remote memory

Neuron. 2005 Jun 2;46(5):799-810. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2005.04.034.


In humans and experimental animals, damage to the hippocampus or related medial temporal lobe structures severely impairs the formation of new memory but typically spares very remote memory. Questions remain about the importance of these structures for the storage and retrieval of remote autobiographical memory. We carried out a detailed volumetric analysis of structural brain images from eight memory-impaired patients. Five of the patients had damage limited mainly to the medial temporal lobe. These patients performed normally on tests of remote autobiographical memory. Three patients had medial temporal lobe damage plus significant additional damage to neocortex, and these patients were severely impaired. These findings account for previously reported differences in the recollective ability of memory-impaired patients and demonstrate that the ability to recollect remote autobiographical events depends not on the medial temporal lobe but on widely distributed neocortical areas, especially the frontal, lateral temporal, and occipital lobes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Memory Disorders / pathology
  • Memory Disorders / physiopathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Net / anatomy & histology*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Temporal Lobe / anatomy & histology*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*