Puzzling thoughts for H. M.: can new semantic information be anchored to old semantic memories?


Researchers currently debate whether new semantic knowledge can be learned and retrieved despite extensive damage to medial temporal lobe (MTL) structures. The authors explored whether H. M., a patient with amnesia, could acquire new semantic information in the context of his lifelong hobby of solving crossword puzzles. First, H. M. was tested on a series of word-skills tests believed important in solving crosswords. He also completed 3 new crosswords: 1 puzzle testing pre-1953 knowledge, another testing post-1953 knowledge, and another combining the 2 by giving postoperative semantic clues for preoperative answers. From the results, the authors concluded that H. M. can acquire new semantic knowledge, at least temporarily, when he can anchor it to mental representations established preoperatively.





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Publication Info

Skotko, Brian G, Elizabeth A Kensinger, Joseph J Locascio, Gillian Einstein, David C Rubin, Larry A Tupler, Anne Krendl, Suzanne Corkin, et al. (2004). Puzzling thoughts for H. M.: can new semantic information be anchored to old semantic memories?. Neuropsychology, 18(4). pp. 756–769. 10.1037/0894-4105.18.4.756 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/10113.

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David C. Rubin

Juanita M. Kreps Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

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My main research interest has been in long-term memory, especially for complex (or "real-world") stimuli. This work includes the study of autobiographical memory and oral traditions, as well as prose. I have also studied memory as it is more commonly done in experimental psychology laboratories using lists. In addition to this purely behavioral research, which I plan to continue, I work on memory in clinical populations with the aid of a National Institute of Mental Health grant to study PTSD and on the underlying neural basis of memory the aid of a National Institute of Aging grant to study autobiographical memory using fMRI.


Larry A. Tupler

Associate Consulting Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

My principal research interest concerns brain-behavior relationships, both in
normals and in psychiatric populations. Methods of study include magnetic
resonance imaging (MRI) and spectroscopy (MRS), neuropsychological
investigations, psychopharmacological studies, cognitive-science paradigms,
and methodological inquiries. More specifically, topics of interest include
lesion and morphometric studies of discrete brain regions as they relate to
cognitive and other behavioral measures, pharmacodynamics, pharmacotherapy,
and psychometric investigations of reliability and validity. Gerontological
populations are of particular interest in relation to both normal and abnormal
aging, particularly dementia (e.g., Alzheimer's disease and vascular
dementia). Psychiatric disorders of particular interest include mood and
anxiety disorders.

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