Source Memory

In addition to deficits in sequencing temporal information, patients with frontal lobe dysfunction have been reported to show deficits in identifying the source of their knowledge. Thus, an individual with source amnesia may be able to remember a fact but will forget where and when that fact was learned.

In a 1989 study, Jerry Janowsky and colleagues found that patients with frontal lobe lesions exhibited impaired source memory for facts acquired in a recent test session, even though their memory for the facts was normal. During the first phase of the experiment, subjects were asked to learn some general information facts (not known prior to the study session). After a 6 to 8 day retention interval, subjects were asked to answer some additional questions. Some questions were the previously nonrecalled items from the initial study phase, some were new items from the same level of difficulty, and others were easy questions that had not been presented previously. When subjects correctly answered a question, they were asked to recollect where and when the information had been learned. Compared to their age-matched controls, the frontal lobe group made significantly more errors by attributing learned information to an incorrect source. Results of this study suggest that the frontal lobes play an important role in one's ability to associate information in memory to the context in which it was acquired.

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