Evaluating the neuropsychological dissociation evidence for multiple memory systems

Jennifer D. Ryan, Neal J. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This article presents a critical evaluation of the logic and nature of the neuropsychological dissociation evidence that has provided one of the essential lines of support for claims of multiple memory systems-specifically, suggesting that amnesia selectively compromises, and an intact hippocampal system selectively supports, a particular form of memory. An analysis of the existing neuropsychological dissociation evidence is offered in which different classes of evidence-different dissociation approaches-are identified and characterized. The logic of these neuropsychological dissociation approaches is evaluated critically in terms of their ability to distinguish among alternative theoretical views. We conclude that although they support a multiple memory systems account, the findings from these types of neuropsychological dissociation, taken individually and without support from other converging lines of cognitive neuroscience evidence, cannot definitively rule out alternative formulations. A more powerful neuropsychological dissociation approach is then outlined, involving dissociation within condition, that, by more effectively limiting the critical domains of difference between the dissociated performances, can successfully rule out alternative accounts. Its application in Ryan, Althoff, Whitlow, and Cohen (2000) is described, providing strong support for the power of the dissociation within condition approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)168-185
Number of pages18
JournalCognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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