Impairment of episodic and semantic autobiographical memory in patients with mild cognitive impairment and early Alzheimer's disease

Thomas Leyhe, Stephan Müller, Monika Milian, Gerhard W Eschweiler, Ralf Saur
Neuropsychologia 2009, 47 (12): 2464-9
Autobiographical memory includes the retrieval of personal semantic data and the remembrance of incident or episodic memories. In retrograde amnesias, it has been observed that recall of autobiographical memories of recent events is poorer than recall of remote memories. Alzheimer's disease (AD) may also be associated with a temporal gradient (TG) in memory decline, though studies have yielded inconsistent results on this point. They have also yielded inconsistent results on whether AD might differentially affect semantic and episodic remembrance. Here, we compared autobiographical memory of childhood, early adulthood, and recent life among healthy control (HC) subjects, patients with early AD, and patients with amnesic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI). Both the aMCI and AD patients exhibited declines in recall of autobiographical incidents and semantic information. In AD patients, both components of autobiographical memory had a clear TG, with better preservation of memories of childhood than those of early adulthood and recent life. The TG of autobiographical memory decline in AD patients is more compatible with the Cortical Reallocation Theory than with the Multiple Trace Theory of memory consolidation. In contrast to AD patients, aMCI patients exhibited impaired recall of personal facts and autobiographical incidents relating only to recent life. The significant decline in autobiographical memory for recent life that occurred in aMCI patients suggests that deterioration of consolidation of personal facts and events begins with commencement of functional impairment in the hippocampus.

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