Current Topics Regarding the Function of the Medial Temporal Lobe Memory System

  • Robert E. Clark
Part of the Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences book series (CTBN, volume 37)


The first clear insight that the medial temporal lobe of the human brain was in fact a system of anatomically connected structures that were organized into a memory system came in 1957 from the observations by Brenda Milner of the noted amnesic patient H.M. Subsequent work in humans, monkeys, and rodents has identified all of the components of the medial temporal lobe (MTL) that formed the memory system. Currently, work is ongoing to identify the specific contributions each structure in the medial temporal lobe makes towards the formation and storage of long-term declarative memory. The historical background of this work is described including what insights the study of noted neurologic patients H.M. and E.P. provided for understanding the function of the medial temporal lobe. The development of an animal model of medial temporal lobe function is described. Additionally, the insights that lead to the understanding that the brain contains multiple, anatomically discrete, memory systems are described. Finally, three current topics of debate are addressed: First, does the perirhinal cortex exclusively support memory, or does it support both memory and higher order visual perception? Second, is there an anatomical separation between recollection and familiarity? Third, is the organization of spatial memory different between humans and rats, or perhaps the difference is between the working memory capacities of the two species?


Working memory Perirhinal Recollection Familiarity Spatial memory H.M. E.P. 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg  2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare SystemSan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of CaliforniaSan Diego, La JollaUSA

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