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Neuropsychology meets neuroanatomy: The California Verbal Learning Test and the frontal lobes

Speaker: Dr Giuseppe Zappalà, Garibaldi Hospital, Catania, Italy

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Memory function represents a complex cognitive process of any brain, fundamental for life. In humans, classifications of memory processes include different stages such as registration, storage and retrieval of information, which may be differentially impaired in clinical settings. Memory disturbances have traditionally been linked to alterations of the temporal regions of the brain and investigated with verbal and non-verbal learning test instruments. In the early 80’ in the USA a new testing instrument was developed by Delis et al. (1987) which provided the clinicians with quantitative as well as qualitative aspects of performance. Moreover, variables like interference, intrusion errors and residual recognition would add relevant information about the learning process. Clustering and organizational activity during the learning process offer qualitative contributions about the “strategy” implemented during the storage and the retrieval phase, which were related to other neuroanatomical structures, besides the temporal lobes. Frontal lobe activity then could be indirectly measured by analyzing the amounts of clusters (words belonging to the same semantic category) during learning and free recall. Traumatic brain injury has been the main target for most studies in the last 30 years; recently aging, dementia (with a shorter from) and neuropsychiatric disturbances (both in adolescent and in adult life) have been more consistently investigated and CVLT has been found as the most sensitive and most reliable neurocognitive measure. This provides not only quantitative test results during memory performance, but also allows some inference upon memory procedures and strategies adopted and the differential anatomical contribution during the learning processes.

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