Published Date: May 27, 2023

Full Text Article

Altered learning and transfer abilities in Korsakoff's syndrome depending on task complexity

Authors: Cigdem Ulasoglu-Yildiz, Zerrin Yildirim, Catherine E Myers, Mark A Gluck, Hakan Gurvit

Appl Neuropsychol Adult. 2023 May 27:1-13. doi: 10.1080/23279095.2023.2217975. Online ahead of print.


Korsakoff's syndrome (KS) is characterized by episodic memory impairment due to damage to the medial diencephalic structures. Although commonly associated with chronic alcoholism, starvation due to the hunger strike is one of its nonalcoholic causes. Learning the stimulus-response associations and transferring the just-learned associations to novel combinations were previously tested by specific tasks in memory-impaired patients with hippocampal, basal forebrain, and basal ganglia damage. To add to this previous research, we aimed to use the same tasks in a group of patients with hunger strike-related KS presenting a stable isolated amnestic profile. Twelve patients with hunger strike-related KS and matched healthy controls were tested in two tasks varying in task complexity. Each task included two phases: the initial phase is feedback-based learning of (simple vs. complex) stimulus-response associations, and the following phase is transfer generalization (in the presence vs. absence of feedback). On a task involving simple associations, five patients with KS failed to learn the associations, while the other seven patients showed intact learning and transfer. On the other task involving more complex associations, seven patients showed slower learning and failed at transfer generalization, whereas the other five patients failed even at the acquisition phase. These findings of a task-complexity-related impairment on associative learning and transfer represent a distinct pattern from the spared learning but impaired transfer previously observed on these tasks in patients with medial temporal lobe amnesia.

PMID: 37243624DOI: 10.1080/23279095.2023.2217975