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The hippocampal region is necessary for text comprehension and memorization: a combined VBM/DTI study in neuropsychological patients

Abstract

According to the Construction-Integration model (Kintsch 1988; Kintsch 1998), two forms of representation are activated during the reading and the comprehension of a text: 1) the text base, which includes semantic propositions and 2) the situation model, corresponding to the integration of the information contained in the text to the memories and knowledge of the reader. Functional neuroimaging studies in healthy subjects have shown that the text base is underpinned by frontal regions and lateral temporal regions whereas the situation model would rather depend on the posterior cingulate cortex, the precuneus and other regions depending on the dimension studied. However, the brain regions highlighted so far were only involved in comprehension and not necessary for this cognitive ability. For the first time, we explored the brain structures necessary to understand texts using a combined VBM/DTI approach in neuropsychological patients with whom we obtained comprehension scores (text base and situation model) after the reading of narrative texts. To our great surprise and contrary to our hypotheses, which were based on the results of functional neuroimaging studies, our own results show that it is the hippocampal region that is necessary to activate and memorize/remember the text base and the situation model. The highlighting of a link between the integrity of a portion of the uncinate fasciculus which is well known to play a role in semantic processing and the performance scores of the text base suggests that the hippocampal region is necessary not only for the retrieval of the text base and of the situation model thanks to episodic memory, but also for the activation of the text base during the reading and the comprehension of a text.

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Abbreviations

DTI:

Diffusion Tensor Imaging.

FA:

Fractional Anisotropy.

FDR:

false discovery rate.

FWE:

family-wise error.

GM:

Grey Matter.

MNI:

Montreal Neurological Institute.

VBM:

Voxel-based morphometry.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank Corine Marrer for technical assistance with MRI data acquisition and most importantly the patients for their time and effort spent participating in this study.

Funding

This research was supported in part by an internal grant from ICube laboratory.

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Correspondence to Frédéric A. Bernard.

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The study was approved by the local ethics committee.

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Hausser, L.P., Bugaud, A., Noblet, V. et al. The hippocampal region is necessary for text comprehension and memorization: a combined VBM/DTI study in neuropsychological patients. Brain Imaging and Behavior 15, 2367–2376 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11682-020-00432-1

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11682-020-00432-1

Keywords

  • Text comprehension
  • Memory
  • MRI
  • Neuropsychological patients