Impoverished Descriptions of Familiar Routes in Three Cases of Hippocampal Amnesia
Herdman, Katherine Anne
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Recent research has challenged classic theories of hippocampal function in spatial memory with findings that the hippocampus may be necessary for detailed representations of environments learned long ago, but not for remembering the gist or schematic aspects that are sufficient for navigating within those environments (Rosenbaum et al., 2000). We aimed to further probe distinctions between detailed and schematic representations of familiar environments with three hippocampal amnesic patients by testing them on a route description task and mental navigation tasks that assess the identity and location of landmarks, and distances and directions between them. The amnesic cases could describe basic directions along known, imagined routes, estimate distance and direction between well-known landmarks, and produce sketch maps with accurate layouts, suggestive of intact schematic representations. However, findings that patients’ route descriptions lack richness of detail, along with impoverished sketch maps and poor landmark recognition, substantiates previous findings that detailed representations are hippocampus-dependent.