J Neurol Sci 2002 Jun 15;198(1-2):79-85
Seinela A, Hamalainen P, Koivisto M, Ruutiainen J.
Masku Neurological Rehabilitation Centre, P.O. Box 15, FIN-21251 Masku, Finland
Conscious and unconscious uses of memory and priming were studied in 30 patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and 15 normal control (NC) subjects.
MS patients were classified into two subgroups according to their cognitive status; 15 of them were cognitively deteriorated (the MS-D group) and 15 cognitively preserved (the MS-P group).
A process dissociation procedure [J. Mem. Lang. 30 (1991) 513] was used to separate conscious and unconscious memory performance in a word stem completion task.
The results showed that the MS-D group had deficient conscious memory performance, but had intact unconscious memory as well as priming.
The MS-P group showed normal conscious and unconscious uses of memory and priming.
Thus, in MS-related cognitive decline, conscious memory seems to be vulnerable, whereas unconscious memory remains intact.
The results provide neuropsychological support for the distinction between conscious and unconscious memory processes.
Moreover, the results show the importance of studying cognitively homogenous MS groups as opposed to heterogenous ones, in order to find the underlying mechanisms of memory deficits in MS.
Interestingly, the neural systems needed for the unconscious use of memory do not seem to deteriorate even in MS patients with deficient overall cognitive capacity.
This finding encourages the development of future rehabilitation programs, suggesting that unconscious remembering might help MS patients with deficient conscious memory to cope with their daily activities.