PerspectiveNeuroscience

Dedicated to Memory?

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Science  03 Dec 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6009, pp. 1331-1332
DOI: 10.1126/science.1199462

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Summary

Early observations of individuals with circumscribed damage to the cerebral cortex led to a consensus that memory is not localized to any particular brain area. Rather, neuroscientists believed that memories were incorporated within the information processing functions of many specialized brain areas. In 1957, this view changed dramatically after Scoville and Milner (1) described a patient, known as H.M., in whom damage to the medial temporal lobe (MTL; including the hippocampus and surrounding cortex) resulted in global memory impairment but spared perceptual and cognitive functions. A principal interpretation of these findings was that the MTL is a dedicated memory system, and this perspective dominated subsequent research on memory (2). Recent studies have called this idea into question, however, and McTighe et al. (3) add another twist on page 1408 of this issue. They claim that one part of the MTL, the perirhinal cortex, has a specific information processing function not directly related to memory. Does this finding turn the clock back to the dedicated area view, or move it forward in understanding how the MTL memory system is organized?