Visuospatial declarative learning despite profound verbal declarative amnesia in Korsakoff's syndrome

Erik Oudman, Albert Postma, Tanja C W Nijboer, Jan W Wijnia, Stefan Van der Stigchel
Neuropsychological Rehabilitation 2017 March 20, : 1-14
Korsakoff's syndrome (KS) is a neuropsychiatric disorder characterised by severe amnesia. Although the presence of impairments in memory has long been acknowledged, there is a lack of knowledge about the precise characteristics of declarative memory capacities in order to implement memory rehabilitation. In this study, we investigated the extent to which patients diagnosed with KS have preserved declarative memory capacities in working memory, long-term memory encoding or long-term memory recall operations, and whether these capacities are most preserved for verbal or visuospatial content. The results of this study demonstrate that patients with KS have compromised declarative memory functioning on all memory indices. Performance was lowest for the encoding operation compared to the working memory and delayed recall operation. With respect to the content, visuospatial memory was relatively better preserved than verbal memory. All memory operations functioned suboptimally, although the most pronounced disturbance was found in verbal memory encoding. Based on the preserved declarative memory capacities in patients, visuospatial memory can form a more promising target for compensatory memory rehabilitation than verbal memory. It is therefore relevant to increase the number of spatial cues in memory rehabilitation for KS patients.

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