When you can recite a poem but not remember who asked you to learn it a few days earlier

Memory is not a single process but is made up of several sub-processes relying on different areas of the brain. Episodic memory, the ability to remember specific events such as what you did yesterday, is known to be vulnerable to brain damage involving the hippocampus. The question is, what happens when damage to the hippocampus occurs very early in life? In a case study published in the September 2011 issue of Elsevier's Cortex, clinical neuropsychologists have reported that a child can develop normally despite severe damage to the hippocampus resulting from lack of oxygen in the first days of life. This supports the theory that the different aspects of memory rely on distinct areas of the brain.

Dr. Claire Bindschaedler and Dr. Claire Peter-Favre from the Neuropsychology Unit of Lausanne's University Hospital in Switzerland, together with their colleagues Prof. Philippe Maeder, Dr. Thérèse Hirsbrunner and Prof. Stephanie Clarke, investigated the case of a patient known as VJ, one of the few cases of developmental amnesia reported in the scientific literature. Repeated neuropsychological testing showed that VJ cannot remember being read a story or shown a picture half an hour earlier, or at least remembers little of it. At the same time however, VJ does do well on tests of general knowledge, also called semantic memory. In fact, when tested regularly over his childhood and teenage years, VJ was found to develop at the same rate as other children in areas of general knowledge and general intelligence.

Analysing MRI scans of VJ's brain, Dr. Philippe Maeder found very severe atrophy (wasting away of brain tissue) in the hippocampi, while the adjacent area of the brain, known as the perirhinal cortex, was relatively spared from damage. This latter area is hypothesised to be important for the acquisition of semantic memory. These findings lend support to the idea that (but not semantic memory) depends on the .


Explore further

Memory function varies after damage to key area of the brain

More information: The article is "Growing up with bilateral hippocampal atrophy: From childhood to teenage" by Claire Bindschaedler, Claire Peter-Favre, Philippe Maeder, Thérèse Hirsbrunner, Stephanie Clarke, and appears in Cortex, Volume 47, Issue 8 (September 2011)
Provided by Elsevier
Citation: When you can recite a poem but not remember who asked you to learn it a few days earlier (2011, August 11) retrieved 5 March 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-08-recite-poem-days-earlier.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments