Semantic cognition is supported by two interactive components: semantic representations and mechanisms that regulate retrieval (cf. ‘semantic control’). Neuropsychological studies have revealed a clear dissociation between semantic and episodic memory. This study explores if the same dissociation holds for control processes that act on episodic and semantic memory, or whether both types of long-term memory are supported by the same executive mechanisms. We addressed this question in a case-series of semantic aphasic patients who had difficulty retrieving both verbal and non-verbal conceptual information in an appropriate fashion following infarcts to left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG). We observed parallel deficits in semantic and episodic memory: (i) the patients’ difficulties extended beyond verbal materials to include picture tasks in both domains; (ii) both types of retrieval benefitted from cues designed to reduce the need for internal constraint; (iii) there was little impairment of both semantic and episodic tasks when control demands were minimised; (iv) there were similar effects of distractors across tasks. Episodic retrieval was highly susceptible to false memories elicited by semantically-related distractors, and confidence was inappropriately high in these circumstances. Semantic judgements were also prone to contamination from recent events. These findings demonstrate that patients with deregulated semantic cognition have comparable deficits in episodic retrieval. The results are consistent with a role for LIFG in resolving competition within both episodic and semantic memory, and also in biasing cognition towards task-relevant memory stores when episodic and semantic representations do not promote the same response.
Stampacchia, S., Thompson, H., Ball, E., Nathaniel, U., Hallam, G., Smallwood, J., ... Jefferies, E. (2018). Shared processes resolve competition within and between episodic and semantic memory: Evidence from patients with LIFG lesions. Cortex, 108, 127-143. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2018.07.007