OBJECTIVE--To explore the mechanism of an amnesia marked by confabulations and lack of insight in a patient with an infarct of the right inferior capsular genu. The confabulations could mostly be traced back to earlier events, indicating that the memory disorder ensued from an inability to store the temporal and spatial context of information acquisition rather than a failure to store new information. METHODS--To test the patient's ability to store the context of information acquisition, two experiments were composed in which she was asked to decide when or where she had learned the words from two word lists presented at different points in time or in different rooms. To test her ability to store new information, two continuous recognition tests with novel non-words and nonsense designs were used. Recognition of these stimuli was assumed to be independent of the context of acquisition because the patient could not have an a priori sense of familiarity with them. RESULTS--The patient performed at chance in the experiments probing knowledge of the context of information acquisition, although she recognised the presented words almost as well as the controls. By contrast, her performance was normal in the recognition tests with non-words and nonsense designs. CONCLUSION--These findings indicate that the patient's amnesia was based on an inability to store the context of information acquisition rather than the information itself. Based on an analysis of her lesion, which disconnected the thalamus from the orbitofrontal cortex and the amygdala, and considering the similarities between her disorder, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, and the amnesia after orbitofrontal lesions, it is proposed that contextual amnesia results from interruption of the loop connecting the amygdala, the dorsomedial nucleus, and the orbitofrontal cortex.
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