Deficits in prospective memory following damage to the medial subdivision of the mediodorsal thalamic nucleus

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Identifying the neurocognitive mechanisms that lead individuals remembering to execute an intention at the right moment (prospective memory, PM) and how such mechanisms are influenced by the features of that intention is a fundamental theoretical challenge. In particular, the functional contribution of subcortical regions to PM is still unknown. This study was aimed at investigating the role of the medial subdivision of the mediodorsal thalamic nucleus (mMDT) in PM, with particular focus on the processes that are mediated by the projections from/to this structure. We analysed the performance of a patient (OG) with a right-sided lesion involving the mMDT in a series of PM tasks that varied for focality (i.e., overlapping of processes for the PM and ongoing tasks) and emotional valence of the stimuli, comparing the patient's performance with that of a control group. We found that the mMDT damage led to deficits in PM that were modulated by focality and emotional valence. OG indeed showed: a greater cost in the ongoing performance when a non-focal PM task was added; a slowing down in retrieving the intentions, in particular when these were associated with focal PM cues; an abnormal performance in the task with positive PM cues. Our findings provide evidence of a contribution of mMDT to PM and suggest a modulation of prefrontal-dependent strategic monitoring and a possible interaction with the limbic structures in the integration of emotion and PM processes. They also give support to the still controversial idea that connections with the perirhinal cortex mediate familiarity-based recognition.

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