Different components in word-list forgetting of pure amnesics, degenerative demented and healthy subjects

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This study investigated the contribution of different components of the serial position curve to the accelerated forgetting rate displayed by amnesic and degenerative demented patients in word-list recall. For this purpose, we analyzed immediate and 15 min delayed recall performances on Rey's 15-word learning task of 16 pure amnesic, 15 Alzheimer's demented and 81 healthy subjects. Results documented that in all groups most forgetting occurred at the expense of terminal items of the word list. Nevertheless, both amnesic and demented patients showed a disproportionately larger memory loss on the recent part of the serial position curve than healthy subjects. Finally, amnesics (but not AD patients) suffered from a significantly larger forgetting rate for primacy items than normal controls. These data demonstrate that a critical deficit in memory disordered patients is represented by a failure in transferring information from a transitory memory status to a more durable storing condition. At least in amnesic patients, our results also suggest 'true' long-term forgetting, presumably due to decay or to the intervening inaccessibility of previously stored memory representations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)735-745
Number of pages11
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neuroscience(all)


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