Journal of Neuropsychology

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The role of hippocampus in the retrieval of autobiographical memories in patients with amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment due to Alzheimer's disease

  • Author(s): Laura Serra, Marco Bozzali, Lucia Fadda, Maria Stefania De Simone, Michela Bruschini, Roberta Perri, Carlo Caltagirone, Giovanni A. Carlesimo
  • Published 19 Nov 2018
  • DOI: 10.1111/jnp.12174

The role of the hippocampus and neocortical areas in the retrieval of past memories in pre‐dementia Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients was investigated. The aim was to assess whether the hippocampus has a temporary role in memory trace formation, according to the Cortical Reallocation Theory (CRT), or whether it continuously updates and enriches memories, according to the Multiple Trace Theory. According to the former theory, hippocampal damage should affect more recent memories, whereas the association cortex is expected to affect memories of the entire lifespan. In the second case, damage to either the hippocampus or the association cortices should affect memories of the entire lifespan. Seventeen patients with amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment due to AD were submitted to autobiographical (i.e., episodic and semantic personal) memory assessment. Patients underwent MRI for the acquisition of T1‐weighted brain volumes. Voxel‐based morphometry was used to assess correlations between grey matter (GM) volumes and autobiographical memory. Correlation analyses revealed a strict association between GM volumes in the hippocampus and patients’ ability to retrieve the most recent but not the oldest autobiographical memories in both aspects, episodic and semantic. Moreover, patients’ GM volumes in the pre‐frontal and temporal polar areas were associated with recollection of episodic and semantic events, respectively. Finally, GM volumes in the precuneus and occipital cortex were associated with retrieval of the most recent episodic events. These findings indicate that the hippocampus has a specific time‐dependent role; thus, they support the CRT.

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