When the brain, but not the person, remembers: Cortical reinstatement is modulated by retrieval goal in developmental amnesia

Rachael L. Elward, Michael D. Rugg, Faraneh Vargha-Khadem

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Developmental amnesia (DA) is associated with early hippocampal damage and subsequent episodic amnesia emerging in childhood alongside age-appropriate development of semantic knowledge. We employed fMRI to assess whether patients with DA show evidence of ‘cortical reinstatement’, a neural correlate of episodic memory, despite their amnesia. At study, 23 participants (5 patients) were presented with words overlaid on a scene or a scrambled image for later recognition. Scene reinstatement was indexed by scene memory effects (greater activity for previously presented words paired with a scene rather than scrambled images) that overlapped with scene perception effects. Patients with DA demonstrated scene reinstatement effects in the parahippocampal and retrosplenial cortex that were equivalent to those shown by healthy controls. Behaviourally, however, patients with DA showed markedly impaired scene memory. The data indicate that reinstatement can occur despite hippocampal damage, but that cortical reinstatement is insufficient to support accurate memory performance. Furthermore, scene reinstatement effects were diminished during a retrieval task in which scene information was not relevant for accurate responding, indicating that strategic mnemonic processes operate normally in DA. The data suggest that cortical reinstatement of trial-specific contextual information is decoupled from the experience of recollection in the presence of severe hippocampal atrophy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107788
Early online date12 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 16 Apr 2021

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