Refining understanding of working memory buffers through the construct of binding: Evidence from a single case informs theory and clinical practice

Pierre-Yves Jonin, Clara Calia, Sophie Muratot, Serge Belliard, Quentin Duche, Emmanuel Barbeau, Mario Parra Rodrigues

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Binding operations carried out in working memory enable the integration of informationfrom different sources during online performance. While available evidence suggests thatworking memory may involve distinct binding functions, whether or not they all involve theepisodic buffer as a cognitive substrate remains unclear. Similarly, knowledge about theneural underpinnings of working memory buffers is limited, more specifically regarding theinvolvement of medial temporal lobe structures. In the present study, we report on the case ofpatient KA, with developmental amnesia and selective damage to the whole hippocampalsystem. We found that KA was unable to hold shape-colours associations (relational binding)in working memory. In contrast, he could hold integrated coloured shapes (conjunctivebinding) in two different tasks. Otherwise, and as expected, KA was impaired on threerelational memory tasks thought to depend on the hippocampus that are widely used in theearly detection of Alzheimer’s disease. Our results emphasize a dissociation between two binding processes within working memory, suggesting that the visuo-spatial sketchpad could support conjunctive binding, and may rely upon a large cortical network including subhippocampal structures. By contrast, we found evidence for a selective impairment of relational binding in working memory when the hippocampal system is compromised,suggesting that the long-term memory deficit observed in amnesic patients may be related to impaired short-term relational binding at encoding. Finally, these findings may inform research on the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease as the preservation of conjunctive binding in KA is in sharp contrast with the impaired performance demonstrated very early in this disease.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-57
Early online date27 Aug 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Aug 2018

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • working memory
  • episodic buffer
  • binding
  • amnesia
  • Alzheimer disease


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