Memory for the perceptual and semantic attributes of information in pure amnesic and severe closed-head injured patients

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This study investigated the hypothesis that brain damaged patients with memory disorder are poorer at remembering the semantic than the perceptual attributes of information. Eight patients with memory impairment of different etiology and 24 patients with chronic consequences of severe closed-head injury were compared to similarly sized age- and literacy-matched normal control groups on recognition tests for the physical aspect and the semantic identity of words and pictures lists. In order to avoid interpretative problems deriving from different absolute levels of performance, study conditions were manipulated across subjects to obtain comparable accuracy on the perceptual recognition tests in the memory disordered and control groups. The results of the Picture Recognition test were consistent with the hypothesis. Indeed, having more time for the stimulus encoding, the two memory disordered groups performed at the same level as the normal subjects on the perceptual test but significantly lower on the semantic test. Instead, on the Word Recognition test, following study condition manipulation, patients and controls performed similarly on both the perceptual and the semantic tests. These data only partially support the hypothesis of the study; rather they suggest that in memory disordered patients there is a reduction of the advantage, exhibited by normal controls, of retrieving pictures over words (picture superiority effect).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391-406
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Clinical Psychology


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