Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
A series of five experiments investigated the relationship between object memory and scene memory in normal and fornix-transected monkeys. An algorithm created formally defined background and objects on a large visual display; the disposition of some particular objects in particular places in a particular background constitutes a formally defined scene. The animals learned four types of discrimination problem: (1) object-in-place discrimination learning, in which the correct (rewarded) response was to a particular object that always occupied the same place in a particular unique background, (2) place discrimination learning, in which the correct response was to a particular place in a unique background, with no distinctive object at that place, (3) object discrimination learning in unique backgrounds, in which the correct response was to a particular object that could occupy one or the other of two possible places in a unique background, and (4) object discrimination learning in varying backgrounds, in which the correct response was to a particular object that could appear at any place in any background. The severest impairment produced by fornix transection was in object-in-place learning. Fornix transection did not impair object discrimination learning in varying backgrounds. The results from the other two types of learning task showed intermediate severity of impairment in the fornix-transected animals. The idea that fornix transection in the monkey impairs spatial memory but leaves object memory intact is thus shown to be an oversimplification. The impairments of object memory in the present experiments are analogous to the impairments of episodic memory seen in human amnesic patients.