Amnesiacs Have Difficulty Imagining New Experiences

When given verbal clues, patients described only fragmented images lacking spatial coherence

THURSDAY, Jan. 18 (HealthDay News) -- In addition to their memory deficit, patients with amnesia also have trouble imagining new experiences, probably due to the fact that both processes stem from the hippocampus, according to a report published online Jan. 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.

Since memory recollection and hypothetical construction of imagined events both require the hippocampal function, Eleanor A. Maguire, M.D., from University College London in the U.K., and colleagues asked whether five amnesia patients also had impaired imagination compared with 10 healthy controls.

The investigators found that amnesic patients with hippocampal damage had difficulty imagining new experiences in response to short verbal cues, such as, "Imagine you are lying on a white sandy beach in a beautiful tropical bay." While controls described their hypothetical experience in detail, amnesic patients could only describe fragmented images that lacked spatial coherence.

"The hippocampus, therefore, may make a critical contribution to the creation of new experiences by providing the spatial context into which the disparate elements of an experience can be bound," the authors write.

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