Recollection and familiarity in dense hippocampal amnesia: a case study

Neuropsychologia. 2006;44(3):489-506. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2005.05.014. Epub 2005 Jul 14.


In the amnesia literature, disagreement exists over whether anterograde amnesia involves recollective-based recognition processes and/or familiarity-based ones depending on whether the anatomical damage is restricted to the hippocampus or also involves adjacent areas, particularly the entorhinal and perirhinal cortices. So far, few patients with well documented anatomical lesions and detailed assessment of recollective and recognition performance have been described. We report a comprehensive neuroanatomical assessment and detailed investigation of the anterograde memory functions of a previously described severe amnesic patient (VC). The results of four previously published neuroradiological investigations (resting PET, qualitative MRIs, volumetric MRI and functional MRI) together with the results of two new investigations (voxel-based morphometry and magnetic resonance spectroscopy) are presented. The consistent finding across these different qualitative and quantitative examinations of VC's brain has shown that there is primarily structural and functional abnormality located selectively in the hippocampus bilaterally. Marked impairments in both verbal and non-verbal recall and recognition standardized memory tests were documented in the context of VC's intact cognitive profile and normal semantic memory. The results of five new experimental recognition memory tests tapping recollection and familiarity using verbal, topographical (buildings and landscapes) and unknown human faces memoranda revealed striking differential effects according to the type of stimuli used. A receiver operating characteristic analysis revealed that VC's recollective- and familiarity-based recognition processes were well preserved for unknown human faces. In contrast, recollective-based recognition for verbal and topographical material was at floor. Familiarity-based recognition was also impaired, significantly below controls for verbal and buildings memoranda and quite weak, although not reaching significance, for landscapes. These data suggest that the hippocampus is involved in recollective processes of verbal and topographical stimuli. It also plays an appreciable role in familiarity processes for these stimuli. However, recollection and familiarity of human faces appear not to depend on this region.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Amnesia, Anterograde / diagnosis
  • Amnesia, Anterograde / physiopathology*
  • Amygdala / pathology
  • Amygdala / physiopathology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy*
  • Male
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Parahippocampal Gyrus / pathology
  • Parahippocampal Gyrus / physiopathology
  • Reference Values
  • Retention, Psychology / physiology*
  • Temporal Lobe / pathology
  • Temporal Lobe / physiopathology