The case is described of a patient who, following cerebral hypoxia, developed severe difficulty in orienting himself in new environments in the context of a mild global amnesic syndrome. Some episodes he related suggested that his main difficulty was remembering the spatial/directional value of landmarks he recognised. A neuroradiological examination documented severe bilateral atrophy of the hippocampi associated with atrophic changes in the cerebral hemispheres, most marked in the dorsal regions. Neuropsychological and experimental evaluation showed a severe deficit of spatial learning with substantially preserved ability to learn verbal and visual-object information. He was also virtually unable to learn a route in a maze task based exclusively on spatial data, but the availability of visual cues substantially improved his learning. Finally, he performed within normal limits on various tests investigating knowledge acquired premorbidly regarding famous buildings, routes in the town he had been living in since childhood, and geography. Topographical disorientation may be subtended by a specific difficulty in storing the spatial/directional value of visual landmarks in novel environments. The hippocampus appears to be involved in the acquisition of new topographical spatial knowledge.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health