Familiarity impairments after anterior temporal-lobe resection with hippocampal sparing: Lessons learned from case NB

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© 2020 We review evidence from an extensive single case study in an individual (NB) who underwent a rare left-sided anterior temporal-lobe resection with sparing of the hippocampus. Our study aimed to determine whether memory functions of perirhinal cortex, which was largely removed in the resection, can be impaired against a background of preserved hippocampus-dependent memory processing. This research was guided by the proposal that item-based familiarity assessment relies on contributions of perirhinal cortex, and that the hippocampus plays a unique role in the relational binding of items to episodic contexts, which is critical for recollection. Seven sets of findings have emerged from our research on NB (synthesized from five primary research articles), and from follow-up work in other patients: (i) Familiarity impairments can be selective and be revealed with multiple methods; (ii) selective familiarity and selective recollection impairments can be double dissociated; (iii) selective familiarity impairments show material specificity; (iv) selective familiarity impairments extend to assessment of cumulative lifetime experience; (v) selective familiarity impairments are sensitive to degree of feature overlap between object concepts; (vi) selective familiarity impairments are associated with preserved task-related fMRI signals in the hippocampus; (vii) selective familiarity impairments can be observed in other lesion cases. Despite our main focus on the dual-process framework, we also discuss implications for the functional organization of the medial temporal lobes in broader terms. We argue that our findings shed light on this organization even if the functional specialization of different medial temporal structures is ultimately not fully captured with reference to the cognitive distinction between familiarity and recollection.


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