- Alcoholic Korsakoff syndrome:
- Patients have difficulty learning new information, although events from the past are recalled. There is a tendency to invent material to fill memory blanks. Most common cause is alcoholism, especially when this has resulted in a deficiency of vitamin B1.
- Anterograde amnesia:
- A problem in encoding, storing, or retrieving information that can be used in the future.
- Everyday memory:
- Term applied to a movement within memory to extend the study of memory from the confines of the laboratory to the world outside.
- Personal semantic memory:
- Factual knowledge about one’s own past.
- Post-traumatic amnesia (PTA):
- Patients have difficulty forming new memories. Often follows a severe concussive head injury and tends to improve with time.
- Reality orientation training (ROT):
- A method of treating patients in the latter stages of dementia who have lost their orientation in time and place.
- Reminiscence therapy:
- A method of helping dementia patients cope with their growing amnesia by using photographs and other reminders of their past life.
- Retrograde amnesia:
- A problem accessing events that happened in the past.
- Systems consolidation:
- Process of gradual reorganization of the regions of the brain that support memory. Information is consolidated within the brain by a process of transfer from one anatomically based system to another.
Research activity: amnesia in popular fiction
Amnesia is a common theme in popular fiction, particularly in movies and on television. How many examples of amnesia in popular fiction can you come up with, and what type of amnesia was the character suffering from?
- An amusing analysis of the way in which amnesia is portrayed in movies, and a discussion of the implications of this for the public perception of memory and its deficits.
- Living Without Memory: A video documentary about Clive Wearing.
- Professor Elizabeth Warrington talking about amnesia.
- Brainy Behavior: articles about Clive Wearing and H.M, including a video of his brain being sliced into histological sections.
- A series of videos where Larry R. Squire talks about neuroscience of declarative long-term memory research.
Please find below biographies of three important researchers in the field of memory: Larry R. Squire, Elizabeth K. Warrington, and Barbara Wilson.
Larry R. Squire
In high school, Larry Squire was asked to publicly present a lecture to the student body. His chosen topic, hypnosis, started Squire on the career path for which he seemed destined. Squire did his undergraduate work at Oberlin College where, studying memory, his fascination of the complexities of the mind met his fondness for quantitative and controlled research. Most of his early work involved rodents, as he initially shied away from the complications of studying human subjects. After graduating in 1963, he attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for his Ph.D. training, ending in 1968. After completing his postdoctoral fellowship at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, he moved to the University of California, San Diego, where he currently holds the title of Professor of Psychiatry, Neurosciences, and Psychology.
In 1971, he read the work on amnesia by Elizabeth Warrington and Helen Sanders, which had the effect of convincing him to study memory and amnesia in humans. In the late 1970s, his collaboration with Stuart Zola led him to incorporate yet another subject population: monkeys. Additionally, he has an appointment as a Research Career Scientist at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in the city. During his illustrious career, he served as President of the Society for Neuroscience between 1993 and 1994, in addition to gaining membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Institute of Medicine.
Squire, a William James Fellow of the American Psychological Society, has received numerous awards, including the society’s Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award, the William Middleton Award from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Charles A. Dana Award for Pioneering Achievements in Health and Education, the McGovern Award, the Karl Lashley Prize, the Metropolitan Life Foundation Award for Medical Research, and the Howard Crosby Warren Medal from the Society of Experimental Psychologists. Squire has published well over 400 research articles, not to mention numerous books and textbooks covering both memory and neuroscience.
Beginning with his research in mice and rats, Squire set about pinpointing the neurological foundations of memory. His earliest work explored the pharmacology of memory and, later, the role of protein synthesis in the formation of long-term memory. Since then, his scope has expanded to include nonhuman primates, human neurological patients (including amnesiacs), and normally functioning adults, who participate in standard behavioral and neuroimaging studies.
Based upon his work with psychiatric patients whose treatment of electroconvulsive shock therapy resulted in severe memory impairments, Squire and his colleagues developed a number of retrospective memory tests to help map the extent of their retrograde amnesia. One famous test involved asking patients to recall information about television shows that only aired for a single season in order to determine if they could remember that particular time period. His work spans almost every possible level of study, from cellular and molecular plasticity to neuropsychological consultation.
Squire, L. R., & Kandel. E. R. (1999). Memory: From mind to molecules. New York: W.H. Freeman & Co.
Teng, E., & Squire, L. R. (1999). Memory for places learned long ago is intact after hippocampal damage. Nature, 400, 675–677.
Kandel, E. R., & Squire, L. R. (2000). Neuroscience: Breaking down scientific barriers to the study of brain and mind. Science, 290, 1113–1120.
Manns, J. R., & Squire, L. R. (2002). The medial temporal lobe and memory for facts and events. In A. Baddeley, B. Wilson, and M. Kopelman (Eds.), Handbook of memory disorders (2nd ed) (pp.81–99). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Clark, R. E, Manns, J. R., & Squire, L. R. (2002). Classical Conditioning, Awareness, and Brain Systems. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 6, 524–531.
Squire, L. R. (1987). Memory and brain. Oxford: Oxford UP.
Milner, B., Squire, L. R., & Kandel, E. R. (1998). Cognitive neuroscience and the study of memory. Neuron, 20, 445–468.
Rempelclower, N. L., Zola, S. M., Squire, L. R., & Amaral, D.G. (1996). Three cases of enduring memory impairment after bilateral damage limited to the hippocampal formation. Journal of Neuroscience, 16, 5233–5255.
Elizabeth K. Warrington
Elizabeth Warrington received her Ph.D. on the topic of the visual completion effect from the Institute of Neurology in London. Warrington joined the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in 1954, where she would remain until her retirement. In 1960 she was charged with helping assess neurological patients. She was instrumental in establishing a separate department of Clinical Neuropsychology in 1982. She became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1986, recognizing her contributions to the field of human neuropsychology. In 1996, Warrington retired from her post as the head of the department of Clinical Neurology at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. She continues her work at the National Hospital and St. Mary’s Hospital’s Dementia Research Team.
In her Ph.D. research, Warrington investigated reports from parietal lobe patients who were blind to one half of the visual field that they perceived an intact geometric figure, despite part of it being presented in the blind half of the field. Warrington, along with her colleague Lawrence Weiskrantz, later discovered blindsight—the ability for neuropsychological patients with a partial scotoma due to damage to the primary visual cortex to respond appropriately to visual stimuli they report being unable to perceive. This phenomenon is due to a secondary pathway from the retina to cortex.
Warrington’s profound contributions to the clinical realm can, in many ways, be traced back to her drive to develop and improve the accuracy of neuropsychological tests to diagnose and guide the treatment of conditions ranging from strokes to Alzheimer’s disease. For instance, her work helped dissociate the symptoms of stroke from dementia. Stroke patients tend to have difficulty accessing memories, whereas dementia patients are suffering from a storage failure—the information is simply not available. She has contributed to the design of the perceptual Unusual Views Test, face/word recognition tests, a naming skills test, a word comprehension test, and a test to assess the extent of retrograde amnesia. In this latter test, patients are asked to recognize public figures from different periods of time to formally identify the point at which they begin to remember life events.
By studying the specific deficits that different groups of neuropsychological patients have (e.g., difficulties identifying either animate or inanimate objects; an inability to either read or speak a word; semantic or episodic memory deficits), Warrington has shed light on the processes supported by different regions of the brain. For instance, Warrington identified a neurodegenerative disorder, which would later be named semantic dementia, in which patients lose the meanings of words. She has also helped disambiguate the neural basis of long- and short-term memory, providing evidence that the two systems operate in parallel.
McCarthy R. A., & Warrington E. K. (1992). Actors but not scripts: the dissociation of people and events in retrograde amnesia. Neuropsychologia, 30(7), 633–644.
McCarthy R. A., & Warrington E. K. (1987). Understanding: a function of short-term memory? Brain, 110(6), 1565–1578.
Warrington E. K., & Duchen L. W. (1992). A re-appraisal of a case of persistent global amnesia following right temporal lobectomy: a clinico-pathological study. Neuropsychologia, 30(5), 437–450.
Warrington E. K., & McCarthy R. A. (1988). The fractionation of retrograde amnesia. Brain & Cognition, 7(2), 184–200.
Warrington E. K. (1975). The selective impairment of semantic memory. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 27(4), 635–57.
Barbara Wilson was born in 1941 in Tunbridge Wells, England, where her family resided during the War, in which her father was fighting. Her mother moved back to South London when she was 3 weeks old. She grew up in South London (in Brixton and Camberwell) and went to Charles Edward Brooke School in Camberwell. She married early to her husband of over 46 years and had three children within 3 years. She went to Reading University in 1972 at the age of 30 when her youngest child started school. She obtained a first class honors in Psychology at Reading and then went to the Institute of Psychiatry in London to do her clinical training (1975–1977). She didn't get her Ph.D. until 1984, as she was working full-time at Rivermead Rehabilitation Centre in Oxford.
She qualified as a clinical psychologist in 1977. Since 1979 she has worked in Brain Injury Rehabilitation, first at Rivermead Rehabilitation Centre, then at Charing Cross Hospital, London, and at The University of Southampton Medical School, until her retirement in 2007. Since 1990, she has been employed as a senior scientist by The Medical Research Council’s Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge. In 1996, she established the Oliver Zangwill Centre for Neuropsychological Rehabilitation in Ely, a partnership between the local NHS Trust and The Medical Research Council, in which she directed the research. She was visiting Professor of Rehabilitation Studies at the University of Southampton. She holds and has held several grants to look at new assessment and treatment procedures for people with nonprogressive brain injury.
She has published over 16 books, eight widely used neuropsychological tests, and over 260 journal articles and chapters, mostly on rehabilitation. She is editor-in-chief of the journal Neuropsychological Rehabilitation (established in 1991) and sits on several national committees and has been on the governing board of The International Neuropsychological Society, of which she was president from 2006–2007. She is also chair of the World Federation of Neuro Rehabilitation’s Special Interest Group in Neuropsychological Rehabilitation and on the management committee of the WFNR.
In 1984, Wilson was awarded the May Davidson award for outstanding contributions to Clinical Psychology within 10 years of qualification. In 1998 she was awarded an O.B.E. in the Queen’s New Year’s Honors List for services to medical rehabilitation. In 2000, she was awarded a distinguished scientist award from the British Psychological Society. In 2002 she was awarded “Professional of the Year” award by The Encephalitis Society, and, in 2003, she won The British Psychological Society’s annual book of the year award for Case Studies in Neuropsychological Rehabilitation. In 2006 she was awarded the Robert L. Moody prize from the University of Texas for outstanding contributions to rehabilitation. In October 2007, she became president of the Encephalitis Society. In 2008, she became Vice President of the Academy for Multidisciplinary Neurotraumatology. Also in 2008 she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the British Psychological Society (Professional Practice Board). She received another Lifetime Achievement award in 2009 – from the International Neurological Society. In 2011 she received the Ramon y Cahal Award from the International Neuropsychiatric Association. In 2012 and 2013 she received three Honorary Professorships – from the University of Hong Kong, the University of East Anglia, and the University of Sydney.
She is on the management committee of the World Federation of Neurorehabilitation and chair of the WFNR special interest group in Neuropsychological Rehabilitation. A new rehabilitation centre in Quito, Ecuador is named after Wilson, who is also a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, the Academy of Medical Sciences, and the Academy of Social Sciences.
Wilson sees herself as, primarily, a clinical psychologist, having specialized in brain injury rehabilitation since the late 1970s. Her goal is to try to help brain injury patients become more independent. In the course of doing so, she finds opportunities to conduct research that can inform the rehabilitation of other patients and better understand the way brain and behavior interact. She feels strongly that research should always have an applied component.
Although she has done a great deal of work characterizing the deficits, preserved abilities, and prognoses associated with different types of brain damage, she introduced the idea of errorless learning. This approach ensures that learners are prevented from making mistakes on which they could otherwise perseverate. For example, the experimenter could provide the answer to the question before requiring a response. External help is gradually lessened, as shaping takes hold, and the patients tend to learn more on their own. Wilson applied this technique to amnesic patients, who, in every case, would learn more than their counterparts who were allowed to make errors.
Being that Wilson is interested in helping her research subjects, she tries to shape her paradigms around her patients’ goals, using errorless learning for topics they’re interested in (e.g., learning people’s names). The success of errorless learning may arise through implicit learning or whatever explicit abilities remain in the patient. Errorless learning has been applied far and wide, including in the treatment of individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Wilson has also been active in the NeuroPage project, developed by the father of a brain injury patient. The system involves having software operated out of the Oliver Zangwill Centre interact with a pager, worn on the belt. When the pager goes off, the user is to look at the screen on the pager, which offers a reminder. In effect, it offers the user a “prosthetic memory.” Operators at the Centre consult with the family and patients on a weekly basis to program the appropriate reminders, which can vary from 40 messages a day to as few as two or three, depending on the severity of the memory impairment. The technology has shown the potential to dramatically improve completion rates of behaviors, such as taking one’s medication, and is being developed for children and learning-impaired populations.
Wilson, B. A. (2002). Cognitive rehabilitation in the 21st century. Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair, 16(2), 207–210.
Wilson, B. A. (2008). Neuropsychological rehabilitation. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 4, 142–162.
Page, M., Wilson, B. A. Shiel, A., et al. (2006). What is the locus of the errorless-learning advantage? Neuropsychologia, 44(1), 90–100.
Wilson, B. A. (1999). Case studies in neuropsychological rehabilitation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Evans, J. J., Wilson, B. A., Needham, P., et al. (2003). Who makes good use of memory aids? Results of a survey of people with acquired brain injury. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 9(6), 925–935.