Recognition memory for single items and for associations in amnesic patients

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Recognition memory performance reflects two distinct processes or types of memory referred to as recollection and familiarity. According to theoretical claims about the two types of memory, single item and associative recognition tasks can be used as an experimental method to distinguish recollection and familiarity processes. Associative recognition decisions can be used as an index of recollection while memory for single items is mostly based on familiarity judgement. We employed this procedure to examine a possible dissociation in the memory performance of amnesic patients between spared single item and impaired associative recognition. Twelve amnesic patients, six with damage confined to the hippocampus proper, and six with damage elsewhere in the brain, were recruited for the present study. The findings showed that hippocampal amnesics exhibit relative sparing of single item learning but are consistently deficient in the learning of all kinds of between-item associations. These results are consistent with the view that hippocampal formation contributes differently to declarative tasks that require recollective or familiarity processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)426-433
Number of pages8
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • Amnesia
  • Familiarity
  • Hippocampus
  • Recollection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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