This study investigated the ability of individuals with amnesia to acquire referential labels across a series of collaborative, dynamic interactions with a communication partner. Despite their inability to learn arbitrary relations in paired-associate learning, the amnesic patients showed remarkably robust collaborative learning across trials, at a rate equal to that of normal comparison subjects. The amnesic participants' learning resulted in their arriving at labels for a set of abstract shapes (tangrams), thus facilitating rapid and efficient communication. The labels generated and used by the amnesics during interactions with their partners became simpler across trials, with most labels stabilizing long before the end of training and then being used consistently throughout; moreover, they endured long after the task had ended. These findings have important implications for understanding the memory systems involved in semantic learning and in acquiring shared knowledge ('common ground'} among communication partners, and the nature of hippocampal-dependent versus hippocampal-independent learning.
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