Hippocampal amnesia disrupts the flexible use of procedural discourse in social interaction

Melissa Duff, Julie Hengst, Chinmayi Tengshe, Alison Krema, Daniel Tranel, Neal Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: We have worked to develop rich communicative environments as a way to study the real-world demands that communication places on language-and-memory-in-use by focusing on the impact of declarative memory impairments on social interaction. Here, we analyse procedural discourse-the practice of telling another person how to do something (e.g., giving directions). Aims: To facilitate comparison to previous research on procedural discourse, this study includes an analysis of the procedural steps produced by target participants. This study also offers a novel approach by focusing on the collaborative and interactional nature of how procedural discourse is produced to meet the demands of real-world communication. Methods & Procedures: Procedural discourse samples were obtained on nine individuals with hippocampal amnesia and nine comparison participants each interacting with a clinician. Using traditional procedural and linguistic-based measures and interactional discourse measures, we analysed target participants' individual contribution to procedural descriptions and contributions of both the clinician and participant across the samples. Outcomes & Results: No significant group differences were observed for procedural and linguistic-based measures. Rather, participants with amnesia were more reliably distinguished on interactional discourse measures (e.g., lack of engagement and support for clinician, less detail and personalisation of procedural steps, difficulty in shifting social stance). Conclusions: These findings accord with our previous research suggesting that hippocampal amnesia disrupts the flexible deployment of declarative knowledge and the ability to shift social stances/perspectives to meet the demands of social interaction. These findings contribute to the evolving portrait of language-and-memory-in-use and further support the value of examining interactional aspects of communication in the empirical study of brain-behaviour relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)866-880
Number of pages15
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - Jul 2008


  • Amnesia
  • Hippocampus
  • Language
  • Memory
  • Procedural discourse
  • Social interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • LPN and LVN


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