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Episodic memory: insights from semantic dementia

Hodges, J. R. and Graham, Kim Samantha ORCID: 2001. Episodic memory: insights from semantic dementia. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B - Biological Sciences 356 (1413) , pp. 1423-1434. 10.1098/rstb.2001.0943

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Semantic dementia, also known as the temporal lobe variant of fronto-temporal dementia, results in a progressive yet relatively pure loss of semantic knowledge about words, objects and people, and is associated with asymmetric, focal atrophy of the antero-lateral temporal lobes. Semantic dementia provides a unique opportunity to study the organization of long-term memory particularly since initial observations suggested sparing of episodic memory. Recent studies reveal, however, a more complex but theoretically revealing pattern. On tests of autobiographical memory, patients with semantic dementia show a 'reverse step function' with sparing of recall of events from the most recent 2 to 5 years but impairment on more distant life periods. Anterograde recognition memory for visual materials is extremely well preserved, except in the most deteriorated cases, although performance is heavily reliant upon perceptual information about the studied stimuli, particularly for items that are no longer known by the subjects. On tests of verbal anterograde memory such as word learning, performance is typically poor even for words which are 'known' to the patients. A source discrimination experiment, designed to evaluate familiarity and recollection-based anterograde memory processes, found that patients with semantic dementia showed good item detection, although recollection of source was sometimes impaired. Semantic knowledge about studied items and measures of item detection and source discrimination were largely independent. The implications of these findings for models of long-term memory are discussed. The results support the concept that episodic memory, or at least the recall of temporally specific autobiographical experiences, draws upon a number of separable memory processes, some of which can function independently of semantic knowledge.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Systems Immunity Research Institute (SIURI)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Uncontrolled Keywords: Semantic memory; Episodic memory; Frontotemporal dementia; Hippocampus; Alzheimer's disease
Publisher: Royal Society
ISSN: 1471-2970
Last Modified: 21 Oct 2022 09:01

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