A dominant view in the learning and memory literature states that a subset of anatomically related structures within the medial temporal lobe (MTL), including the hippocampus, entorhinal, perirhinal, and parahippocampal cortices, forms a functionally related system specialized for declarative memory but not for perception. However, recent reports challenge this view, suggesting instead that the medial temporal lobe is not only important for memory, but also critical for certain forms of perception. In this review, I argue that little or no conclusive evidence currently exists to support the latter view. Experimental studies that have examined the perceptual functions of the MTL in monkeys are inconclusive because they fail to isolate perceptual from mnemonic task demands. Evaluation of conflicting results from studies in human amnesic patients suggests that extraneous damage to extra-MTL areas may underlie the reported perceptual deficits in the group of amnesic patients at the heart of this debate. See the related Review from Baxter, "Involvement of Medial Temporal Lobe Structures in Memory and Perception," in this issue of Neuron.
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