Memory dysfunction

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

15 Scopus citations


This article highlights the dissociable human memory systems of episodic, semantic, and procedural memory in the context of neurologic illnesses known to adversely affect specific neuroanatomic structures relevant to each memory system. Recent Findings: Advances in functional neuroimaging and refinement of neuropsychological and bedside assessment tools continue to support a model of multiple memory systems that are distinct yet complementary and to support the potential for one system to be engaged as a compensatory strategy when a counterpart system fails. Summary: Episodic memory, the ability to recall personal episodes, is the subtype of memory most often perceived as dysfunctional by patients and informants. Medial temporal lobe structures, especially the hippocampal formation and associated cortical and subcortical structures, are most often associated with episodic memory loss. Episodic memory dysfunction may present acutely, as in concussion; transiently, as in transient global amnesia (TGA); subacutely, as in thiamine deficiency; or chronically, as in Alzheimer disease. Semantic memory refers to acquired knowledge about the world. Anterior and inferior temporal lobe structures are most often associated with semantic memory loss. The semantic variant of primary progressive aphasia (svPPA) is the paradigmatic disorder resulting in predominant semantic memory dysfunction. Working memory, associated with frontal lobe function, is the active maintenance of information in the mind that can be potentially manipulated to complete goal-directed tasks. Procedural memory, the ability to learn skills that become automatic, involves the basal ganglia, cerebellum, and supplementary motor cortex. Parkinson disease and related disorders result in procedural memory deficits. Most memory concerns warrant bedside cognitive or neuropsychological evaluation and neuroimaging to assess for specific neuropathologies and guide treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)613-626
Number of pages14
JournalCONTINUUM Lifelong Learning in Neurology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 5 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Genetics(clinical)

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