Extended memory networks

This study demonstrated how clinical populations can inform our understanding of human cognitive processes (in this instance, memory) and identifed the specific contributions of brain regions to these processes (Tu, Miller, Piguet, & Hornberger, 2014). Here, Dr Sicong Tu and colleagues tested patients with rare small lesions in the thalamus (medial-dorsal nucleus) due to a stroke. This revealed an important role for this brain region in the encoding of novel verbal and visual information. Specifically, it demonstrated that a portion of the thalamus is critical for the consolidation of novel memories. In other words, this part of the brain plays a critical role in making sure we remember information, not just after seeing it but over longer periods of time. This type of investigation with clinical populations provides information about how memory systems are organised in the human brain in a way that cannot be accessed using other methods, such as functional neuroimaging in healthy individuals which can identify the regions involved in a particular cognitive process, but not the specific roles of each region.