Patients with focal frontal, temporal lobe, or diencephalic lesions were investigated on measures of temporal (recency) and spatial (position) context memory, after manipulating exposure times to match recognition memory for targets (pictorial stimuli) as closely as possible. Patients with diencephalic lesions from an alcoholic Korsakoff syndrome showed significant impairment on the temporal context (recency) task, as did patients with frontal lesions penetrating the dorsolateral frontal cortex, according to MRI (and PET) evidence. Patients with temporal lobe lesions showed only a moderate (non-significant) impairment on this task, and patients with medial frontal lesions, or large frontal lesions not penetrating the dorsolateral cortical margins, performed as well as healthy controls at this task. On the spatial context memory task, patients with lesions in the temporal lobes showed significant impairment, and patients with right temporal lesions performed significantly worse than patients with left temporal lesions. Patients with diencephalic lesions showed only a modest (non-significant) impairment on this task, and the frontal lobe group performed normally. When a group of patients with temporal lobe lesions resulting from herpes encephalitis were examined separately, an identical pattern of results was obtained, the herpes group being significantly impaired on spatial memory and showing a trend towards impairment for temporal context memory. There were strong correlations between anterograde memory quotients and context memory performance (despite the use of an exposure time titration procedure) and a weak association in the frontal group with one frontal/executive task [corrected] (card-sorting perservations). It is predicted that correlations between temporal context memory and frontal/executive tasks will be greater in samples of patients all of whom have frontal lesions invading the dorsolateral cortical margin.