Association between precuneus volume and autobiographical memory impairment in posterior cortical atrophy: Beyond the visual syndrome.
Ahmed S., Irish M., Loane C., Baker I., Husain M., Thompson S., Blanco-Duque C., Mackay C., Zamboni G., Foxe D., Hodges JR., Piguet O., Butler C.
Posterior cortical atrophy is a neurodegenerative syndrome characterised by progressive disruption of visual and perceptual processing, associated with atrophy in the parieto-occipital cortex. Current diagnostic criteria describe relative sparing of episodic memory function, but recent findings suggest that anterograde memory is often impaired. Whether these deficits extend to remote memory has not been addressed. A large body of evidence suggests that the recollection of an autobiographical event from the remote past coincides with the successful retrieval of visual images. We hypothesised that the profound visual processing deficits in posterior cortical atrophy would result in impaired autobiographical memory retrieval. Fourteen posterior cortical atrophy patients, eighteen typical Alzheimer's disease patients and twenty-eight healthy controls completed the Autobiographical Interview. Autobiographical memory in posterior cortical atrophy was characterised by a striking loss of internal, episodic detail relative to controls and to same extent as typical Alzheimer's disease patients, in conjunction with an increase in external details tangential to the memory described. The memory narratives of posterior cortical atrophy patients showed a specific reduction in spatiotemporal and perceptual detail. Voxel-based morphometry analysis revealed atrophy of the parieto-occipital cortices in posterior cortical atrophy but relatively spared hippocampi bilaterally, compared with characteristic atrophy of the medial temporal lobes in typical Alzheimer's disease. Analysis of brain regions showing posterior cortical atrophy-specific atrophy revealed a correlation between perceptual details in autobiographical memory and grey matter density in the right precuneus. This study demonstrates remote memory impairment in posterior cortical atrophy despite relatively preserved medial temporal lobe structures. The results demonstrate, for the first time, profound autobiographical memory impairment in PCA and suggest that this is driven by the well-recognised deficits in higher-order visual processing. The findings are discussed in the context of posterior parietal contributions to imagery and memory, and the clinical implications of autobiographical memory impairment for diagnostic and management protocols in posterior cortical atrophy.