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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/29867

Title: Beyond Episodic Memory: Medial Temporal Lobe Contributions to Problem-solving and Semantic Fluency Tasks
Authors: Sheldon, Signy Anne Marie
Advisor: Moscovitch, Morris
Department: Psychology
Keywords: cognitive psychology
Issue Date: 31-Aug-2011
Abstract: The purpose of this thesis was to examine the contribution of episodic memory processes supported by the medial temporal lobes (MTL) to two goal-oriented non-episodic tasks, problem solving and semantic retrieval (verbal fluency). The reported experiments provide evidence for the hypothesis that MTL-based episodic processes are robustly involved in completing non-episodic tasks that are open-ended in that no algorithm or procedure can be applied to obtain task-relevant information. In Experiments 1 and 2, participants were administered the Means-End-Problem-Solving (MEPS) task, an open-ended test of social problem solving. People with impaired episodic memory associated with MTL damage or deterioration, patients with temporal lobe epilepsy or excisions (TLE) and older adults, performed worse than matched controls at solving such problems. Importantly, the participants’ performance on the MEPS as judged by the number of relevant solution steps generated correlated with the number of internal (episodically-relevant) but not external (semantically-relevant) details provided in the solutions. Thus, information derived from episodic memory benefited performance on the MEPS. Experiments 3 and 4 were conducted to ascertain whether open-endedness and episodic relevance are determinants of MTL contributions to performance on tests of verbal fluency, which traditionally are considered the domain of semantic memory. Using fMRI, Experiment 3 tracked the time course of MTL activation as participants performed a fluency task for categories that ranged in episodic relevance. The MTLs were more active throughout for categories that depended on autobiographical memories, not active for categories that were not episodically relevant, and active for episodic/spatial categories only later in the time course as the task moved from being well-defined to open-ended. The necessary involvement of the MTL in these tasks was confirmed by the pattern of spared and impaired performance of patients with TLE on category fluency tasks (Experiment 4). Together, these findings are consistent with the view that MTL-based processes are involved in tasks beyond those that test episodic memory. Furthermore, these studies suggest that performance on non-episodic tasks recruits the MTL most robustly when a task is open-ended.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/29867
Appears in Collections:Doctoral

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