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Brain correlates of memory dysfunction in alcoholic Korsakoff's syndrome
  1. P J Vissera,
  2. L Krabbendama,
  3. F R J Verheya,
  4. P A M Hofmanb,
  5. W M A Verhoevenc,
  6. S Tuinierc,
  7. A Westerc,
  8. Y W M M Van Den Bergc,
  9. L F M Goessensc,
  10. Y D Van Der Werfd,
  11. J Jollesa
  1. aInstitute of Brain and Behavior, Department of Psychiatry, University of Maastricht, Maastricht, The Netherlands, bDepartment of Radiology, Academisch Ziekenhuis Maastricht, Maastricht, The Netherlands, cVincent van Gogh Institute, Venray, The Netherlands, dGraduate School for Neurosciences Amsterdam, Department of Anatomy, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  1. Dr P J Visser, Academische Afdeling Neuropsychologie, PMS Vijverdal, PO Box 88, 6200 AB Maastricht, The Netherlands.


OBJECTIVES To investigate the relation between anterograde amnesia and atrophy of brain structures involved in memory processing in alcoholic Korsakoff's syndrome.

METHODS The volume of brain structures involved in memory processing was measured with MRI from 13 subjects with Korsakoff's syndrome, 13 subjects with chronic alcoholism without Korsakoff's syndrome, and 13 control subjects. The brain structures analysed were the hippocampus, the parahippocampal gyrus, the mamillary bodies, the third ventricle, and the thalamus. Brain volumes were correlated with the delayed recall of a verbal learning test.

RESULTS Compared with subjects with chronic alcoholism and control subjects, subjects with Korsakoff's syndrome had a reduced volume of the hippocampus, the mamillary bodies, and the thalamus, and enlargement of the third ventricle. The impairment of delayed recall correlated with the volume of the third ventricle (r=−0.55, p=0.05) in the Korsakoff group.

CONCLUSIONS Anterograde amnesia in alcoholic Korsakoff's syndrome is associated with atrophy of the nuclei in the midline of the thalamus, but not with atrophy of the mamillary bodies, the hippocampus, or the parahippocampal gyrus.

  • Korsakoff's syndrome
  • alcoholism
  • memory
  • magnetic resonance imaging

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