Retrieval of autobiographical memory in Alzheimer's disease: relation to volumes of medial temporal lobe and other structures

Asaf Gilboa, Joel Ramirez, Stefan Köhler, Robyn Westmacott, Sandra E Black, Morris Moscovitch
Hippocampus 2005, 15 (4): 535-50
The representation of autobiographical memory is distributed over a network of brain structures, with the medial temporal lobe (MTL) at its epicenter. Some believe that, over time, all memories become independent of their MTL component ("consolidation theories"). Others have suggested that this is true only of semantic memory, while episodic aspects of autobiographical memories are dependent on the MTL for as long as they exist, such as multiple trace theory (MTT). In the present study, the volumes of 28 brain regions, including the MTL, and their relation to autobiographical memory were investigated in a group of patients with Alzheimer's disease with varying degrees of retrograde memory loss as assessed by the Autobiographical Memory Interview (AMI). We used the multivariate analysis method of partial least squares (PLS) to assess patterns of atrophy that can lead to retrograde amnesia. We found that different aspects of autobiographical memory were associated with different patterns of tissue loss. Personal semantics were related to a pattern of bilateral anterior and posterior lateral temporal cortex degeneration, more pronounced on the left, as well as right frontal degeneration. Autobiographical event memory ("episodic") was associated with combined atrophy in bilateral MTL and anterior lateral temporal neocortex, more pronounced on the right. This pattern was invariant for memories from childhood, early adulthood, and recent memories, in line with the predictions of MTT, suggesting that MTL tissue is crucial for retrieval of episodic memories regardless of their age.


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