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Memories clutter brain in amnesia

Complex patterns slow down object recognition in patients with disorder

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1:38pm, July 11, 2012

In a paradoxical twist, people with amnesia can get bogged down by too many memories. Unwanted, irrelevant information crowds in and prevents amnesiac patients from recognizing objects, scientists report in the July 12 Neuron. The finding suggests that amnesia isn’t strictly a memory problem, and may even point out ways to help people with the disorder live more normally.

Most people consider amnesia  a breakdown of memory that leaves people unable to recall a conversation they had minutes earlier, says study coauthor Morgan Barense of the University of Toronto. While it’s true that people with amnesia have striking memory deficits, “the real picture is more complicated,” she says.

People with amnesia caused by damage to a brain region near the ears called the perirhinal cortex also have problems recognizing objects, Barense and colleagues found. In the study, two people with this form of amnesia assessed a series of pictures of

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