The limited role of hippocampal declarative memory in transient semantic activation during online language processing.


Brown-Schmidt S(1), Cho SJ(2), Nozari N(3), Klooster N(4), Duff M(5).
Author information:
(1)Vanderbilt University, Department of Psychology and Human Development, United States. Electronic address: [Email]
(2)Vanderbilt University, Department of Psychology and Human Development, United States.
(3)Carnegie Mellon University, Department of Psychology, United States.
(4)University of Pennsylvania, Department of Neurology, United States.
(5)Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Department of Hearing and Speech Science, United States.


Recent findings point to a role for hippocampus in the moment-by-moment processing of language, including the use and generation of semantic features in certain contexts. What role the hippocampus might play in the processing of semantic relations in spoken language comprehension, however, is unknown. Here we test patients with bilateral hippocampal damage and dense amnesia in order to examine the necessity of hippocampus for lexico-semantic mapping processes in spoken language understanding. In two visual-world eye-tracking experiments, we monitor eye movements to images that are semantically related to spoken words and sentences. We find no impairment in amnesia, relative to matched healthy comparison participants. These findings suggest, at least for close semantic links and simple language comprehension tasks, a lack of necessity for hippocampus in lexico-semantic mapping between spoken words and simple pictures.