The Role of Relational Binding in Item Memory: Evidence from Face Recognition in a Case of Developmental Amnesia

  • Olsen R
  • Lee Y
  • Kube J
 et al. 
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Current theories state that the hippocampus is responsible for the formation of memory representations regarding relations, whereas extra hippocampal cortical regions support representations for single items. However, findings of impaired item memory in hippocampal amnesics suggest a more nuanced role for the hippocampus in item memory. The hippocampus may be necessary when the item elements need to be bound within and across episodes to form a lasting representation that can be used flexibly. The current investigation was designed to test this hypothesis in face recognition. H.C., an individual who developed with a compromised hippocampal system, and control participants incidentally studied individual faces that either varied in presentation viewpoint across study repetitions or remained in a fixed viewpoint across the study repetitions. Eye movements were recorded during encoding and participants then completed a surprise recognition memory test. H.C. demonstrated altered face viewing during encoding. Although the overall number of fixations made by H.C. was not significantly different from that of controls, the distribution of her viewing was primarily directed to the eye region. Critically, H.C. was significantly impaired in her ability to subsequently recognize faces studied from variable viewpoints, but demonstrated spared performance in recognizing faces she encoded from a fixed viewpoint, implicating a relationship between eye movement behavior in the service of a hippocampal binding function. These findings suggest that a compromised hippocampal system disrupts the ability to bind item features within and across study repetitions, ultimately disrupting recognition when it requires access to flexible relational representations. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved) (journal abstract)

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  • R. K. Olsen

  • Y. Lee

  • J. Kube

  • R. S. Rosenbaum

  • C. L. Grady

  • M. Moscovitch

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