Visual working memory capacity in Korsakoff's amnesia

Erik Oudman, Martijn J Schut, Antonia F Ten Brink, Albert Postma, Stefan Van der Stigchel
Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology 2020 February 6, : 1-8
Introduction : Despite the interest in memory functioning in Korsakoff's syndrome (KS), visual working memory capacity in KS is still poorly understood. Results from the last decades on working memory limitations in KS appear to be mixed, clearly calling for further investigations. Method : We investigated visual working memory storage capacity of patients diagnosed with KS using a change detection paradigm. Nine patients diagnosed with KS and thirty age- and education- matched healthy controls were presented twice with 2, 3, 4, or 6 bars with different orientations and had to detect whether the orientation of the target bar had changed. Results : As a group, KS patients performed significantly worse than controls on all set sizes, with an average capacity of 1.13 items, compared to 1.75 items in the control participants. In case study analysis, 4 out of 9 patients performed significantly worse than control participants, while 5 had relatively intact visual working memory capacity. In patients, deficits in visual working memory could not be explained by other cognitive deficits. Conclusion : Based on these results, we conclude that visual working memory deficits are a prominent characteristic in some, but not all KS patients. Training visual working memory capacity could possibly optimize other cognitive difficulties in this population.

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