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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

December 2011, Vol. 23, No. 12, Pages 3862-3873.
(doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_00089)
© 2011 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Observing Degradation of Visual Representations over Short Intervals When Medial Temporal Lobe Is Damaged
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Medial temporal lobe (MTL) contributions to the brief maintenance of visual representations were evaluated by studying a group of patients with MTL damage. Eye movements of patients and healthy comparison subjects were tracked while performing a visual search for a target among complex stimuli of varying similarity to that target. Despite the task having no imposed delays, patients were impaired behaviorally, and eye movement measures showed abnormally rapid degradation of target representations in the patients. Eye movement data showed a modulation of the duration of fixations as a function of the similarity of fixated array lures to the target, but the effect was attenuated in patients during long fixation paths away from the sample target. This effect manifested despite patients' shorter searches and more frequent fixations of the sample target. Novel techniques provided unique insight into visual representation without healthy MTL, which may support maintenance of information through hippocampal-dependent relational binding.