According to Consolidation Theory (Squire, 1992, Psychological Review, 99, 195; Squire & Alvarez, 1995, Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 5, 169), the mesial temporal lobes have a time-limited role in the maintenance, storage and retrieval of retrograde declarative memories, such that they are not necessary for recalling remote memories. In contrast, proponents of the Multiple Trace Theory (Fuji, Moscovitch, & Nadel, 2000, Handbook of neuropsychology, 2nd ed., p 223, Amsterdam, New York: Elsevier; Nadel & Moscovitch, 1999, Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 7, 217) posit that the mesial temporal lobe (MTL) is necessary for remembering detailed autobiographical and topographical material from all time periods. A third theory of hippocampal function, the Cognitive Map Theory (O'Keefe & Nadel, 1978, The hippocampus as a cognitive map. Oxford: Clarendon), states that the hippocampus is involved in the processing of allocentric spatial representations. The precise role of the MTL in remote memory has been difficult to elucidate, as the majority of studies present cases with widespread brain damage that often occurred many years prior to testing. We investigated retrograde autobiographical, semantic and topographical memories in a subject (SG) who had recently sustained infarctions confined to the MTL and retrosplenial region bilaterally. Inconsistent with the predictions of Cognitive Map Theory, memory for spatial maps that were learned in the past was preserved. Additional testing indicated that SG suffered from a landmark agnosia, which affected remotely and recently acquired information equally. SG was also poor at imagining which direction he would have to turn his body to move from one landmark to another. In accordance with Consolidation Theory, SG performed similarly to control subjects for remote time periods on various measures of retrograde autobiographical memory and demonstrated intact knowledge regarding famous faces and vocabulary terms that were acquired in the past. In contrast, memory for remote public events was impaired. The current findings indicate that the mesial temporal and/or retrosplenial regions have little role to play in memory for remotely acquired spatial maps, autobiographical memories, famous faces or vocabulary terms. However, the findings for landmark naming, directional calculations between landmarks and knowledge of public events suggest that the MTL and/or retrosplenial cortices remain important for accessing these types of memories indefinitely.
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