Intact implicit memory for novel patterns in Alzheimer’s disease.

Repetition priming is a kind of implicit memory (learning without awareness) that does not depend on the medial temporal-lobe system. For example, the amnesic patient H.M., who underwent bilateral medial temporal-lobe resection, shows intact priming with novel patterns, suggesting that perceptual priming with nonverbal material does not depend on areas critical for explicit memory. A logical candidate for the neural substrate that supports this kind of priming is the peristriate cortex, an area that is relatively spared in Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

We therefore predicted that AD subjects would be unimpaired on pattern priming. Subjects copied each of six target figures onto dot patterns. After performing a 3-min distractor task, they were given the same dot patterns (without lines) and asked to draw the first figure that came to mind by connecting the dots with straight lines. Subsequently, in a test of recognition (explicit) memory, subjects viewed each of the six patterns of dots that they had copied previously and were asked to indicate which of four possible completions corresponded to the figure that they had copied 3 min earlier. The AD and control groups achieved comparable priming scores, but AD subjects were significantly impaired in recognizing the patterns explicitly.

Our finding of intact pattern priming in AD provides, for the first time, evidence that pattern priming depends on the peristriate cortex.

Source: Learn Mem 1996 Nov-Dec;3(4):305-12

PMID: 10456100, UI: 99385042

(Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge 02139, USA.)

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