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Neuropsychologia. 2004;42(10):1336-49.

Autobiographical and episodic memory--one and the same? Evidence from prefrontal activation in neuroimaging studies.

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Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest Centre 3560 Bathurst Steet, Toronto, Ont., Canada M6A 2E1.


Laboratory investigations of episodic memory often require participants to encode and later retrieve lists of items (words, pictures, or faces). The underlying assumption is that recollection of items from the list is analogous to recollection of events from one's past, i.e. autobiographical re-experiencing. Functional neuroimaging studies of episodic memory have provided extensive evidence suggesting that regions of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) play a role in episodic memory retrieval. A review of PFC activations reported in imaging studies of autobiographical memory and matched sub-sets of list-learning episodic memory studies reveals patterns of similarity but also substantial differences. Episodic memory studies often report activations in the right mid-dorsolateral PFC, but such activations are absent in autobiographical memory studies. Additionally, activations in the ventromedial PFC, primarily on the left, are almost invariably found in autobiographical memory studies, but rarely occur in studies of episodic memory. It is suggested that these two regions mediate different modes of post-retrieval monitoring and verification. Autobiographical memory relies on quick intuitive 'feeling of rightness' to monitor the veracity and cohesiveness of retrieved memories in relation to an activated self-schema. Episodic memory for lists requires more conscious elaborate monitoring to avoid omissions, commissions and repetitions. The present analysis suggests that care and caution should be exercised in extrapolating from the way we recollect 'events' from a list learned in the laboratory to the way we recollect events from our lives.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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