The posterior parietal cortex in recognition memory: a neuropsychological study

Sharon Haramati, Nachum Soroker, Yadin Dudai, Daniel A Levy
Neuropsychologia 2008, 46 (7): 1756-66
Several recent functional neuroimaging studies have reported robust bilateral activation (L>R) in lateral posterior parietal cortex and precuneus during recognition memory retrieval tasks. It has not yet been determined what cognitive processes are represented by those activations. In order to examine whether parietal lobe-based processes are necessary for basic episodic recognition abilities, we tested a group of 17 first-incident CVA patients whose cortical damage included (but was not limited to) extensive unilateral posterior parietal lesions. These patients performed a series of tasks that yielded parietal activations in previous fMRI studies: yes/no recognition judgments on visual words and on colored object pictures and identifiable environmental sounds. We found that patients with left hemisphere lesions were not impaired compared to controls in any of the tasks. Patients with right hemisphere lesions were not significantly impaired in memory for visual words, but were impaired in recognition of object pictures and sounds. Two lesion--behavior analyses--area-based correlations and voxel-based lesion symptom mapping (VLSM)---indicate that these impairments resulted from extra-parietal damage, specifically to frontal and lateral temporal areas. These findings suggest that extensive parietal damage does not impair recognition performance. We suggest that parietal activations recorded during recognition memory tasks might reflect peri-retrieval processes, such as the storage of retrieved memoranda in a working memory buffer for further cognitive processing.

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