Thomson – using classical conditioning together with lesioning to investigate what areas are active when forming memories. Goal: to come up with new methods and techniques to deal with memory disorders.
Woodruff – pioneered using tests of eye-blink classical conditioning on humans to identify early onset of Alzheimers.
Theory: Alzheimers impairs the transmission of acetylcholine which is the memory transmitter responsible for forming new memories.
Case: A 89 years old woman who came in as a good conditioner with 50% conditioned responses – a couple of years later a serious drop of conditioned responses 25% was seen. All neuropsychological tests were still normal though and continued to be so for 5 years but then there was a rapid deterioration in the neuropsychological abilities. So these tests show impairment 5 years before the actual onset.
Implications: Because Alzheimer's disease kills cells and its pathology is irreversible, early detection is the only hope for a cure or prevention.Doctors and researchers are working to develop a vaccine for Alzheimer's disease. The vaccine would block the toxins that accumulate in the brain and preserve the acetylcholine connection that is so vital to memory.
Thanks to case studies and lesioning we now know that:
Our memory system is a distributed one. Brain damage(lesioning or naturally occuring) show that implicit memories rarely are affected while semantic and episodic memory can be so.
MRI scanning of Clive Wearing’s brain shows damage to the hippocampus and some of the frontal regions. He is suffering from both anterograde and retrograde amnesia.
This give insight into the biological foundation of different memory systems. His episodic and some of his semantic memory are lost. But his implicit memory is intact. This is evidence of a distributed memory system.