College of Psychology Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PhD)


College of Psychology

First Advisor

Charles Golden

Second Advisor

Ryan Black

Third Advisor

Gustavo J. Rey


Declarative Memory, Epilepsy, Episodic Memory, Focal Cortical Dysplasia, Hippocampal Sclerosis


This study investigated memory in children with temporal lobe epilepsy and the ability to discern hippocampal dysfunction with conventional memory tests that are typically used to detect more global memory impairment. All data was obtained retrospectively from the epilepsy surgery program at a local children’s hospital. The research population consisted of 54 children with intractable epilepsy of temporal onset, balanced across pathology types (with and without hippocampal disease) and other demographics. Each was given a clinical battery prior to surgical intervention, which included the WRAML/WRAML2 Verbal Learning subtest from which the dependent variables for this study were extracted. The research hypothesis had predicted that memory retention between verbal learning and recall would be worse for participants with pathology that included hippocampal sclerosis than for those with non-hippocampal temporal lobe pathology. A two-way mixed-design ANOVA was used to test the hypothesis, which allowed incorporation of variables of interest related to memory factors, pathology type, and hemispheric laterality, as well as their various interactions. There was a significant main effect for change in the number of words retained from the final learning trial to the delayed recall. Although the interaction between memory retention and pathology type was not statistically significant, the average of the memory scores as it related to pathology by side did show significance. Thus, results did not support the hypothetical relationship between retention and hippocampal function. However, additional exploratory analyses revealed that the final learning trial by itself was associated with hippocampal pathology, which applied only to those participants with left-hemisphere lesions. Logistic regression with the final learning trial correctly classified 74 percent of participants into the appropriate pathology category, with 81 percent sensitivity to hippocampal dysfunction. Mean participant memory scores were nearly one standard deviation below the normative mean for both delayed recall and total learning scaled scores, regardless of pathology type or lesion hemisphericity. Thus, while the conventionally used indices of the WRAML Verbal Learning test are useful for determining overall memory status, they are not specific to pathological substrate. The within-subject main effect showed an expected loss of information across the time of the delay, but overall the recall score showed no association with hippocampal functioning. This study revealed the possibility of measuring hippocampal function at statistically significant group levels using learning scores from a widely used measure of verbal memory, even in participants with intact contralateral mesial temporal structures. It also indicated that hippocampal structures do not play a role during recall measures given after a standard time delay. Data further demonstrated a role of the hippocampus for encoding and transferring information beyond short term/working memory into long term. During the learning process, the hippocampus appears to work in concert with short-term memory systems, but does not take over the encoding process until enough repetitions have occurred to saturate the working memory buffer. This research represents a small, yet important step forward in our understanding of the hippocampus, with potentially important implications for the future study of memory constructs and mensuration.

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