OBJECTIVE To test the hypothesis that visual memory for faces can be dissociated from visual memory for topographical material.
METHOD A patient who developed a global amnesic syndrome after acute carbon monoxide poisoning is described. A neuroradiological examination documented severe bilateral atrophy of the hippocampi.
RESULTS Despite a severe anterograde memory disorder involving verbal information, abstract figures, concrete objects, topographical scenes, and spatial information, the patient was still able to learn previously unknown human faces at a normal (and, in some cases, at a higher) rate.
CONCLUSIONS Together with previous neuropsychological evidence documenting selective sparing of topographical learning in otherwise amnesic patients, this case is indicative of the fact that the neural circuits involved in face recognition are distinct from those involved in the recognition of other visuoperceptual material (for example, topographical scenes).
- face learning
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