Autobiographical memory after temporal lobe resection: neuropsychological and MRI volumetric findings

M Noulhiane, P Piolino, D Hasboun, S Clemenceau, M Baulac, S Samson
Brain 2007, 130: 3184-99
This study examined the contribution of medial temporal lobe (MTL) structures in autobiographical memory. While some investigators have reported a temporal gradient in memory performance, characterized by retrieval difficulties limited to recent periods of life [Squire and Alvarez (Retrograde amnesia and memory consolidation: a neurobiological perspective. Curr Opin Neurobiol 1995; 5: 169-77)], others have suggested that this impairment involves all life-time periods [Nadel and Moscovitch (Memory consolidation, retrograde amnesia and the hippocampal complex. Curr Opin Neurobiol 1997; 7: 217-27)]. In this study, autobiographical memory was assessed in 22 patients who had undergone a left (n = 12) or a right (n = 10) MTL resection for the relief of epileptic seizures and in 22 normal control participants. For this purpose, we used an autobiographical memory task (TEMPau, Piolino et al., 2003) across four time periods covering the subjects' entire lifespan. For each period, an overall autobiographical memory score (AM score) was obtained, from which a strictly episodic score (SE score), characterized by specificity and richness of details, was computed. For all events recalled, Remember responses justified by specificity of factual, spatial and temporal contents (jR responses) were measured using the Remember/Know paradigm. MRI volumetric analyses performed on the medial (i.e. hippocampus, temporopolar, entorhinal, perirhinal and parahippocampal cortices) and lateral temporal (i.e. superior, middle and inferior temporal gyri) lobe structures stated that the resection mainly included MTL structures. AM and SE scores were impaired in patients with right and left MTL resections as compared to normal controls across all time periods, reflecting the patients' particular difficulty in producing specific and detailed memories across all periods. This impairment was associated with poor autonoetic consciousness, revealed by the small number of jR responses across all periods. Results of correlation analysis between MRI volume measures of temporal lobe structures and autobiographical memory scores suggest that the right MTL structures are particularly responsive in reliving the encoding context regardless of remoteness. Our results support the bilateral MTL contribution to episodic autobiographical memory covering the entire lifespan, which is consistent with the multiple trace theory of MTL function [Moscovitch et al. (Functional neuroanatomy of remote episodic, semantic and spatial memory: a unified account based on multiple trace theory. J Anat 2005; 207: 35-66.)].

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