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Impairments in visual discrimination after perirhinal cortex lesions: testing ‘declarative’ vs. ‘perceptual-mnemonic’ views of perirhinal cortex function

Authors

  • Timothy J. Bussey,

    Corresponding author
    • : Dr T. J. Bussey, at *present address below. E-mail:tjb1000@cam.ac.uk, or Dr E. A. Murray, at address above.

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  • Lisa M. Saksida,

    1. Section on the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, Laboratory of Neuropsychology, National Institute of Mental Health, Convent Drive, Building 49, Room 1880, MSC4415, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA
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  • Elisabeth A. Murray

    1. Section on the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, Laboratory of Neuropsychology, National Institute of Mental Health, Convent Drive, Building 49, Room 1880, MSC4415, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA
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  • *

    Present address: Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB1 2EB, UK

Abstract

Two experiments tested the predictions of ‘declarative’ vs. ‘perceptual-mnemonic’ views of perirhinal cortex function. The former view predicts that perirhinal cortex lesions should impair rapidly learned, but not more slowly learned, visual discriminations, whereas the latter view predicts that impairments should be related not to speed of learning but to perceptual factors. It was found that monkeys with perirhinal cortex lesions were impaired in the acquisition and performance of slowly learned, perceptually difficult greyscale picture discriminations, but were not impaired in the acquisition of rapidly learned, perceptually easier discriminations. In addition, these same monkeys were not impaired in the acquisition or performance of difficult colour or size discriminations, indicating that the observed pattern of impairments was not due to ceiling effects or difficulty per se. These findings, taken together, are consistent with the ‘perceptual-mnemonic’ view that the perirhinal cortex is involved in both perception and memory, but are not consistent with the ‘declarative’ view that the perirhinal cortex is important exclusively for declarative memory, having little or no role in perception. Moreover, the results are consistent with the more specific proposal that the perirhinal cortex contributes to the solution of complex visual discriminations with a high degree of ‘feature ambiguity’, a property of visual discrimination problems that can emerge when features of an object are rewarded when part of one object, but not when part of another. These and other recent findings suggest the need for a revision of prevailing views regarding the neural organization of perception and memory.

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