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Episodic memory impairment and hippocampal pathology are hallmark features of both temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) and amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI). Pattern separation (PS), which enables the distinction between similar but unique experiences, is thought to contribute to successful encoding and retrieval of episodic memories. Impaired PS has been proposed as a potential mechanism underling episodic memory impairment in aMCI, but this association is less established in TLE. In this study, we examined behavioral PS in patients with TLE and explored whether profiles of performance in TLE are similar to aMCI.
Patients with TLE, aMCI, and age-matched, healthy controls (HCs) completed a modified recognition task that relies on PS for the discrimination of highly similar lure items, the Mnemonic Similarity Task (MST). Group differences were evaluated and relationships between clinical characteristics, California Verbal Learning Test—Second Edition scores, and MST performance were tested in the TLE group.
Patients with TLE and aMCI demonstrated poorer PS performance relative to the HCs, but performance did not differ between the two patient groups. Neither the side of seizure focus nor having hippocampal sclerosis affected performance in TLE. However, TLE patients with clinically defined memory impairment showed the poorest performance.
Memory performance on a task that relies on PS was disrupted to a similar extent in TLE and aMCI. The MST could provide a clinically useful tool for measuring hippocampus-dependent memory impairments in TLE and other neurological disorders associated with hippocampal damage.
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