Abnormal categorization and perceptual learning in patients with hippocampal damage

Kim S. Graham, Victoria L. Scahill, Michael Hornberger, Morgan D. Barense, Andy C. H. Lee, Timothy J. Bussey, Lisa M. Saksida

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87 Citations (Scopus)


Prevailing theory holds that the medial temporal lobe (MTL) subserves declarative memory exclusively, whereas nondeclarative memory is independent of this brain region. Recent studies in patients with amnesia, however, have shown that performance on declarative memory tasks may not always be dependent on a single MTL memory system, instead highlighting the critical role of anatomically distinct structures in processing different stimulus types. In particular, the hippocampus has been implicated in spatial memory, whereas perirhinal cortex seems critical for object memory. To assess whether stimulus type would also be a key dimension in nondeclarative memory, patients with selective hippocampal lesions were tested on simple categorization and perceptual learning of faces and virtual reality scenes. The patients demonstrated preserved categorization and perceptual learning of faces but abnormal performance when the stimuli to be discriminated were virtual reality scenes. These findings imply that stimulus type may be a more critical predictor of performance on memory tasks (declarative and nondeclarative) than previously thought. They also suggest that reports of good nondeclarative memory after MTL damage may, in some cases, simply reflect the use of stimuli that fail to tap the processes dependent on structures in this region, such as spatial processing in the case of the hippocampus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7547-7554
Number of pages8
JournalThe Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number29
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2006


  • Amnesia
  • Hippocampus
  • Medial temporal lobe
  • Nondeclarative memory
  • Object discrimination
  • Scene discrimination

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