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date: 05 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The historical roots of memory research—mainly from the period between 1870 and 1920—are described with emphasis on human memory. First, data from experimental psychology are reviewed; thereafter principal contributions from the old traditions of psychiatry and psychoanalysis are given and then relations between brain tissue damage and memory deficits are outlined. Experimental as well as clinical studies of that time already provided evidence for theoretical ideas on memory systems, which resemble those en vogue today. Furthermore, significant and still valid findings were reported on the contribution of bottleneck structures of the limbic system for mempry encoding. Among these, the mammillary bodies, thalamic nuclei, and the medial temporal lobe were most consistently mentioned. Furthermore, early findings from psychiatric patients revealed similar forms of dissociative states as found presently and indicated that these disease conditions occur much more in young than in older adults.

Keywords: psychoanalysis, medial temporal lobe, Ribot’s law, Korsakoff’s syndrome, hysteria, memory, Ganser syndrome, amnesia, alcohol, mammillary bodies

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