Autobiographical memory and amnesia

Dean F. Mackinnon, Larry R. Squire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


In four experimente, we assessed autobiographical memory in 5 normal subjecte and in 5 memoryimpaired patients, all of whom had become amnesic on a known date. The patients were unable to produce autobiographical recollections in as much detail as the normal subjects could. The impairment was especially noticeable when single-word eues were used to elicit memories and when subjects were asked to recollect evente from any past time period. Amnesic patiente performed better when they were instructed to restrict their recollections to childhood or adolescence. In particular, when single-word eues were used together with probe questions, or when structured questions were used instead of single-word eues, amnesie patients produced recollections about childhood and adolescence that could not be distinguished qualitatively or quantitatively from the recollections of normal subjects. The patients who had the most difficulty recollecting auto-biographical episodes were the same ones who in a previous study had exhibited the most severe and extensive retrograde amnesia on fact-memory tests. These findings do not support the view that amnesia especially affecte episodic, as compared to semantic, memory. Isolated amnesie syndromes can have little effect on the storage and retrieval of very remote memories, whether they be memories for facts or memories for specifie autobiographical episodes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-256
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology


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