Autobiographical memory: From experiences to brain representations

Autobiographical memory: From experiences to brain representations

Published in: Neuropsychologia, Volume 110, February 2018, 1-6

“Autobiographical memory (AM) refers to representations of one’s personal history that integrate self-related knowledge with experienced events (including their interpretation and evaluation) across the extended self (Conway and Pleydell-Pearce, 2000; Levine, 2004; Rubin, 2006). AM is shaped by a multitude of factors, including self-schema, goals, emotion, culture, age, gender, and genetics. The vastness and diversity of past personal experiences captured in our AMs define who we are (Conway and Pleydell-Pearce, 2000; Fitzgerald, 1996; Levine, 2004; Libby and Eibach, 2002), help us relate to other people (Fivush, 2011; Nelson and Fivush, 2004), and enable future planning (Klein et al., 2002; Rosenbaum et al., 2005; Schacter et al., 2007; Tulving, 1985). The same processes that allow for its flexibility can also lead to inaccuracies and distortions (Schacter et al., 1998).

The dynamics of AM across development, and the disorders that disturb it, remind us of its intricacies and fragility, and the complex network of brain regions on which it depends. AM continues to be of widespread interest, studied with a range of methods from a variety of disciplines. To a large extent, psychological and neuropsychological studies of memory that treat the encoding and recollection of discrete stimuli in the lab as ‘mini-events’ aim to model the processes that allow for AMs to be retained and retrieved. While the rigorous study of mini-events serves to illuminate important aspects of fundamental memory mechanisms, it does not necessarily capture the processes that enable the representation and retention of real-life AM. A deeper understanding of AM and the neural systems and processes that support it is therefore critical to the field of memory research more broadly. This special issue should be of interest to a broad audience that includes those interested in memory theory, brain function, clinical populations, and methodological approaches to the study of the human mind. Below we provide an overview of some of the themes that cut across the twenty papers that comprise this issue.”

Written by: Asaf Gilboa, R. Shayna Rosenbaum, Avi Mendelsohn
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