Translational rodent models of Korsakoff syndrome reveal the critical neuroanatomical substrates of memory dysfunction and recovery

Neuropsychol Rev. 2012 Jun;22(2):195-209. doi: 10.1007/s11065-012-9194-1. Epub 2012 Apr 13.


Investigation of the amnesic disorder Korsakoff Syndrome (KS) has been vital in elucidating the critical brain regions involved in learning and memory. Although the thalamus and mammillary bodies are the primary sites of neuropathology in KS, functional deactivation of the hippocampus and certain cortical regions also contributes to the chronic cognitive dysfunction reported in KS. The rodent pyrithiamine-induced thiamine deficiency (PTD) model has been used to study the extent of hippocampal and cortical neuroadaptations in KS. In the PTD model, the hippocampus, frontal and retrosplenial cortical regions display loss of cholinergic innervation, decreases in behaviorally stimulated acetylcholine release and reductions in neurotrophins. While PTD treatment results in significant impairment in measures of spatial learning and memory, other cognitive processes are left intact and may be recruited to improve cognitive outcome. In addition, behavioral recovery can be stimulated in the PTD model by increasing acetylcholine levels in the medial septum, hippocampus and frontal cortex, but not in the retrosplenial cortex. These data indicate that although the hippocampus and frontal cortex are involved in the pathogenesis of KS, these regions retain neuroplasticity and may be critical targets for improving cognitive outcome in KS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Humans
  • Korsakoff Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Korsakoff Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Neuroanatomy / methods*
  • Thiamine Deficiency / complications
  • Thiamine Deficiency / pathology