Memory and Learning: The Forgetful Patient

  • James G. Scott
  • Mike R. Schoenberg


The capacity to encode, retain and retrieve information is essential to the evolution of all living animals. From the ameba to ourselves, learning from interaction with our environment is critical to adaptation to the stimuli that influence our well being. The human brain is masterful at recognizing patterns of recurrence, be they sensory, motor or cognitive. This process of pattern recognition produces engrams which are the building blocks of concepts and organization which facilitate retrieval. Through this chapter, we will discuss models of processing and outline the essential elements for memory. We will discuss the anatomical correlates of memory and discuss how damage to many parts of the brain can have a direct or secondary effect on memory functioning. Several syndromic patterns of memory loss are reviewed below and recommendations given regarding possible etiologies for these observed memory scores. The factors which influence memory including encoding, storage and retrieval will be addressed. Finally, in this chapter we will discuss how to perform an assessment of memory functions which will allow the clinician to determine if problems in memory are present and if more detailed assessment of memory functions is indicated. Additional detailed information regarding the impact that different etiologies can have on memory functioning are discussed throughout this text.

As with many cognitive functions beyond the basic sensory, perceptual and motor systems, memory is dependent on prerequisite skills for accurate assessment and determination of the etiology of a deficit. Accurate assessment of memory hinges on the adequacy of sensory input, perceptual skill, motor output and attentional capacity. Factors which influence these prerequisite skills can produce a profound impact on memory. In addition, some internal cognitive aspects of functioning such as reasoning and organization produce secondary effects on measured memory skills. In addition to these factors, assessment of memory must consider the emotional functioning of the person being assessed. Severe psychopathology such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder can have an obvious and profound effect on memory; however, even mild depression and situational anxiety can produce subtle but predictable effects on memory performance which may be detrimental or enhancing.


Temporal Lobe Episodic Memory Entorhinal Cortex Word List Semantic Memory 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesUniversity of Oklahoma Health Sciences CenterOklahoma CityUSA

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