Working memory in temporal lobe epilepsy: An event-related potential study

A. Grippo, L. Pelosi, V. Mehta, L. D. Blumhardt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded to a digit-probe identification and matching task (modified 'Sternberg paradigm') in 29 patients with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) and 26 healthy subjects. Our main aim was to identify the neurophysiological correlates of abnormal short term memory function in patients with TLE. Neuropsychological tests allowed the definition and comparison of two patient groups according to the presence or absence of memory dysfunction. These two groups did not differ significantly in mean age, education years, IQ, seizure duration, seizure frequency, anti-epileptic drug (AED) regimes, or on findings on neuroimaging. ERPs recorded under different levels of memory load were analysed both by conventional component identification and by an objective computer method of determining mean amplitudes of multiple 50 ms epochs (MMA analysis). We found that some significant abnormalities were common to both groups of patients; these included slow reaction times, a reduced amplitude of the N170 wave (and the corresponding 157-210 ms epoch in the MMA analysis) and a broad late negative shift between 577 and 735 ms. Other findings, including a significantly reduced performance accuracy as the level of memory load increased, were restricted to patients with abnormal memory function. The ERP changes that were specific to these patients occurred within a latency band of 200-420 ms and included a relatively preserved, but delayed P250 component and a delayed and attenuated N290 wave. When compared with either healthy subjects or with patients with normal memory, the responses in patients with abnormal memory showed an abnormal 'positive shift' between 262 and 315 ms after probe presentation and a further positive shift between 315 and 420 ms as memory load increased. These abnormalities of 'memory scanning' ERPs in patients with TLE which paralleled neuropsychological and behavioural evidence of memory dysfunction, and which occurred in the section of the response that is sensitive to memory loading in healthy subjects, provide further objective evidence-that abnormalities of short term memory processes contribute to the memory deficits of TLE.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)200-213
Number of pages14
JournalElectroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1996


  • Cognition
  • Event-related potentials
  • Memory-scanning
  • Temporal lobe epilepsy
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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