Memory and Amnesia Project (MAP)
Funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), MAP broadly aims to investigate the underlying neural basis of amnesia using a multi-modal approach. We use clinical interviews, neuropsychological assessments, novel behavioural experiments and neuroimaging techniques to investigate the role of the hippocampus, and other medial temporal lobe (MTL), structures in memory and higher-order perception in healthy brains as well as in patient cohorts.
We have recruited a substantial number of patients with autoimmune limbic encephalitis. These patients present with significant memory impairments alongside focal hippocampal atrophy providing an excellent opportunity to tackle important questions surrounding the role of the hippocampus in memory function and memory impairment. Given that MTL damage occurs in various neurodegenerative diseases, understanding memory function in light of MTL damage and any potential adverse knock-on effects with remote brain region connectivity, is vital.
Through MAP, we also have the opportunity to identify unique patient cases, such as a case of a discrete Perirhinal Cortex (PrC) lesion caused by an abscess that spared the hippocampus. This type of lesion is rare and allows us to investigate the process and material specific role of the PrC in memory.
Finally, we can also describe the neuro-behavioural profile of limbic encephalitis associated with voltage-gated potassium channel (VGKC) antibodies, a condition that is relatively rare and to date has not been thoroughly characterised.
Clinical test of Accelerated Long Term Forgetting
The Memory Research Group are also investigating forgetting. Commonly associated with Transient Epileptic Amnesia, a particular form of forgetting known as Accelerated Long-term Forgetting (ALF) has only recently been described. Patients with ALF show normal learning and initial retention of information, but memory decreases at an accelerated rate over time compared to typical forgetting. Due to the nature of this deficit, many clinical tests will miss this form of forgetting as they test immediate memory, and then typically at a delayed time of 30 minutes after learning. The aim of this project is to devise a brief clinical test of ALF, and to provide scores of a normative sample against which patients with ALF can be compared.