Date of Award

12-2009

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Robin D. Morris - Chair

Second Advisor

Marise Parent

Third Advisor

Anthony Stringer

Fourth Advisor

David Washburn

Abstract

Memory impairments are common in individuals with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). This is understandable given that temporal lobe brain structures involved in TLE play a central role in encoding memories. It is widely accepted that individuals whose seizure focus is in the left temporal lobe (LTLE) tend to have verbal memory impairments, whereas individuals whose seizure focus is in the right temporal lobe (RTLE) tend to have visuospatial memory impairments. However, evidence of functional subdivisions within the left and right temporal lobes in both the animal and human literature suggest that more specific subtypes of memory impairment may exist in TLE based on differences in seizure foci. The aim of this study was to identify more specific subtypes of memory-impairments in patients with intractable TLE using several measures of memory functioning and cluster analysis. Identification of more specific memory subtypes in TLE could have prognostic significance for patients and contribute to our knowledge about the organization of memory systems of the human brain. Four memory subtypes were identified in this sample: 1) patients with mild to moderate figural memory deficits; 2) patients with moderate to severe figural memory deficits, mild facial recognition deficits, and mild attention/concentration deficits; 3) patients with severe figural memory deficits and mild verbal episodic memory deficits; and 4) patients with no episodic or semantic memory deficits. Unexpectedly, the subtypes found did not exhibit the expected pattern of verbal memory impairments with left temporal lobe damage/dysfunction or visuospatial memory impairments with right temporal lobe damage/dysfunction. However, consistent with the literature, there was a trend towards some clusters with better verbal memory having higher left hippocampal volumes; and a trend towards one cluster with facial recognition deficits having lower anterior temporal lobe volumes. Small sample sizes in this study limited the ability to clearly validate many of the cluster differences, particularly differences in brain volumes. Nevertheless, the results of this study support the hypothesis that subtypes of memory impairment do exist in patients with TLE. With larger sample sizes, it is plausible that additional subtypes may be found, or the characteristics of the subtypes found may become clearer.

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Psychology Commons

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