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Chapter 11

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Queen's University
PSYC 370
Monica Valsangkar- Smyth

Chapter 11: Learning, Memory, and Amnesia- How Your Brain Stores Information - Both learning and memory are neuroplastic processes - Learning: the brain’s ability to change in response to experience - Memory: the brain’s ability to store and access the learned effects of experience - Amnesia: any pathological loss of memory - Bilateral medial temporal lobectomy: the removal of the medial portions of both temporal lobes, including the hippocampus, the amygdala, and the adjacent cortex- procedure undergone by H.M. - Retrograde amnesia: loss of memory for events or information learned before the amnesia-inducing brain injury - Anterograde amnesia: loss of memory for events occurring after the amnesia-inducing brain injury - We have both short term memory and long term memory - Digit span is the classic test for short term memory - Global amnesia: amnesia for information presented in all sensory modalities *displayed by H.M.* - Digit span + 1 test: you add a number to the sequence after the subject has said it back - Block-tapping memory-span test: same as the digit test but uses physical blocks instead of numbers - Mirror-drawing test: draw the outline of something by looking at it in a mirror (like a star—performed by H.M. and showed his long term memory was fine because his drawing improved even though he did not remember doing to task) - Rotary-pursuit test: the subject tries to keep the tip of a stylus in contact with a target that rotates on a revolving turn table - Incomplete-pictures test: a test of memory measuring the improved ability to identify fragmented figures that have been previously observed - H.M.’s case showed that the medial temporal lobes play an especially important role in memory - H.M.’s treatment supported the hypothesis that there are different areas of the brain that are used to store different kinds of memories (short-term, long-term, remote memory) - Memory consolidation: the transfer of short-term memories to long-term storage - H.M.’s case showed that amnesic patients might claim no recollection of a previous experience, while demonstrating memory for it by improved performance - Explicit memories: conscious memories - Implicit memories: memories that are expressed by improved performance without conscious recall or recognition - Medial temporal lobe amnesia: amnesia associated with bilateral damage to the medial temporal lobes; its major feature is anterograde amnesia for explicit memories in combination with preserved intellectual functioning - Repetition priming tests: tests of implicit memory; in one example, a list of words is presented, then fragments of the original words are presented and the subject is asked to complete them - Explicit memory is further split into two: o Semantic memories: explicit memories for general facts and knowledge o Episodic memories: explicit memories for the particular events and experiences of one’s life - Medial temporal lobe amnesia cause difficulty with episodic memories - Patients who experience cerebral ischemia often suffer from medial temporal lobe amnesia - Korsakoff’s Syndrome: a neuropsychological disorder that is common in alcoholics and whose primary symptom is severe memory loss o During the early stages of the disorder, anterograde amnesia for explicit episodic memories is the most prominent symptom o Severe retrograde amnesia can often develop - Mediodorsal nuclei: a pair of medial diencephalic nuclei in the thalamus, damage to which is thought to be responsible for many of the memory deficits associated with Korsakoff’s syndrome - Medial diencephalic amnesia: amnesia that is associated with damage to the medial diencephalon (e.g., Korsakoff’s amnesia) - Alzheimer’s disease is another major cause of amnesia o First sign is often a mild deterioration of memory - Level of acetylcholine is greatly reduced in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients - Reduction results from the degeneration of the basal forebrain (brain’s main source of acetylcholine) - Concussions are the most common causes of amnesia o Posttraumatic amnesia (PTA): amnesia produced by a non-penetrating head injury (a blow to the head that does not penetrate the skull) - More severe blows to the head tend to produce longer comas, longer periods of confusion, and longer periods of amnesia - Islands of memory are patches of memories that occur during the confusion times and are remembered - Electroconvulsive shock (ECS): an intense, brief, diffuse, seizure-inducing current administered to the brain via large electrodes attached to the scalp - Hebb’s theory of consolidation; argued that memories of experiences are stored in the short term by neural activity reverberating (circulating) in closed circuits, disruption is what causes the loss of memory - Standard consolidation theory: theory that memories are temporarily stored in the hippocampus until they can be transferred to a more stable cortical storage system - Multiple-trace theory: theory that memories are encoded in a distributed fashion throughout the hippocampus and other brain structures for as long as the memories exist - Engram: a change in the brain that stores a memory - Retained memories become progressively more resistant to disruption by hippocampal damage because every time a similar experience occurs or the original memory is recalled a new engram is established and linked with previous engrams - Hypothesis that each time a memory is retrieved from long-term storage it is temporarily help in short-term memory where it is susceptible to posttraumatic amnesia - Delayed nonmatching-to-sample test: a test which the subject is presented with an unfamiliar sample object and then, after a delay, is presented with a choice between the sample object and an unfamiliar object, where the correct choice is the unfamiliar object - Mumby box: an apparatus that is used in a rat version of the delayed nonmatching-to- sample test (example on page 284) - Bilateral surgical removal of the rhinal cortex consistently produces severe and permanent deficits in performance on the delayed nonmatching-to-sample test - Hippocampus plays a key role in object-recognition memory o Problem
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