We evaluated whether prior semantic knowledge would enhance episodic learning in amnesia. Subjects studied prices that are either congruent or incongruent with prior price knowledge for grocery and household items and then performed a forced-choice recognition test for the studied prices. Consistent with a previous report, healthy controls' performance was enhanced by price knowledge congruency; however, only a subset of amnesic patients experienced the same benefit. Whereas patients with relatively intact semantic systems, as measured by an anatomical measure (i.e., lesion involvement of anterior and lateral temporal lobes), experienced a significant congruency benefit, patients with compromised semantic systems did not experience a congruency benefit. Our findings suggest that when prior knowledge structures are intact, they can support acquisition of new episodic information by providing frameworks into which such information can be incorporated.

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