Episodic memory and self-reference via semantic autobiographical memory: insights from an fMRI study in younger and older adults.
ABSTRACT: Self-referential processing relies mainly on the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) and enhances memory encoding (i.e., Self-Reference Effect, SRE) as it improves the accuracy and richness of remembering in both young and older adults. However, studies on age-related changes in the neural correlates of the SRE on the subjective (i.e., autonoetic consciousness) and the objective (i.e., source memory) qualitative features of episodic memory are lacking. In the present fMRI study, we compared the effects of a self-related (semantic autobiographical memory task) and a non self-related (general semantic memory task) encoding condition on subsequent episodic memory retrieval. We investigated encoding-related activity during each condition in two groups of 19 younger and 16 older adults. Behaviorally, the SRE improved subjective memory performance in both groups but objective memory only in young adults. At the neural level, a direct comparison between self-related and non self-related conditions revealed that SRE mainly activated the cortical midline system, especially the MPFC, in both groups. Additionally, in older adults and regardless of the condition, greater activity was found in a fronto-parietal network. Overall, correlations were noted between source memory performance and activity in the MPFC (irrespective of age) and visual areas (mediated by age). Thus, the present findings expand evidence of the role of the MPFC in self-referential processing in the context of source memory benefit in both young and older adults using incidental encoding via semantic autobiographical memory. However, our finding suggests that its role is less effective in aging.
Project description:Information that is processed with reference to oneself, i.e. Self-Referential Processing (SRP), is generally associated with better remembering compared to information processed in a condition not related to oneself. This positive effect of the self on subsequent memory performance is called as Self-Reference Effect (SRE). The neural basis of SRE is still poorly understood. The main goal of the present work was thus to highlight brain changes associated with SRE in terms of activity and functional coupling and during both encoding and retrieval so as to assess the relative contribution of both processes to SRE. For this purpose, we used an fMRI event-related self-referential paradigm in 30 healthy young subjects and measured brain activity during both encoding and retrieval of self-relevant information compared to a semantic control condition. We found that SRE was associated with brain changes during the encoding phase only, including both greater activity in the medial prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, and greater functional coupling between these brain regions and the posterior cingulate cortex. These findings highlight the contribution of brain regions involved in both SRP and episodic memory and the relevance of the communication between these regions during the encoding process as the neural substrates of SRE. This is consistent with the idea that SRE reflects a positive effect of the reactivation of self-related memories on the encoding of new information in episodic memory.
Project description:Encoding information in reference to the self enhances subsequent memory for the source of this information. In healthy adults, self-referential processing has been proposed to be mediated by the cortical midline structures (CMS), with functional differentiation between anterior-ventral, anterior-dorsal and posterior regions. While both Alzheimer's disease (AD) and behavioural-variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) patients show source memory impairment, it remains unclear whether they show a typical memory advantage for self-referenced materials. We also sought to identify the neural correlates of this so-called 'self-reference effect' (SRE) in these patient groups. The SRE paradigm was tested in AD (n = 16) and bvFTD (n = 22) patients and age-matched healthy controls (n = 17). In this task, participants studied pictures of common objects paired with one of two background scenes (sources) under self-reference or other-reference encoding instructions, followed by an item and source recognition memory test. Voxel-based morphometry was used to investigate correlations between SRE measures and regions of grey matter atrophy in the CMS. The behavioural results indicated that self-referential encoding did not ameliorate the significant source memory impairments in AD and bvFTD patients. Furthermore, the reduced benefit of self-referential relative to other-referential encoding was not related to general episodic memory deficits. Our imaging findings revealed that reductions in the SRE were associated with atrophy in the anterior-dorsal CMS across both patient groups, with additional involvement of the posterior CMS in AD and anterior-ventral CMS in bvFTD. These findings suggest that although the SRE is comparably reduced in AD and bvFTD, this arises due to impairments in different subcomponents of self-referential processing.
Project description:The story of our lifetime - our narrative self - is constructed from our autobiographical memories. A central claim of social psychology is that this narrative self is inherently social: When we construct our lives, we do so in a real or imagined interaction. This predicts that self-referential processes which are involved in recall of autobiographical memories overlap with processes involved in social interactions. Indeed, previous functional MRI studies indicate that regions in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) are activated during autobiographical memory recall and virtual communication. However, no fMRI study has investigated recall of autobiographical memories in a real-life interaction. We developed a novel paradigm in which participants overtly reported self-related and other-related memories to an experimenter, whose non-verbal reactions were being filmed and online displayed to the participants in the scanner. We found that recall of autobiographical vs. non-autobiographical memories was associated with activation of the mPFC, as was recall in the social as compared to a non-social control condition; however, both contrasts involved different non-overlapping regions within the mPFC. These results indicate that self-referential processes involved in autobiographical memory recall are different from processes supporting social interactions, and argue against the hypothesis that autobiographical memories are inherently social.
Project description:Processing information in relation to the self enhances subsequent item recognition in both young and older adults and further enhances recollection at least in the young. Because older adults experience recollection memory deficits, it is unknown whether self-referencing improves recollection in older adults. We examined recollection benefits from self-referential encoding in older and younger adults and further examined the quality and quantity of episodic details facilitated by self-referencing. We further investigated the influence of valence on recollection, given prior findings of age group differences in emotional memory (i.e., "positivity effects"). Across the two experiments, young and older adults processed positive and negative adjectives either for self-relevance or for semantic meaning. We found that self-referencing, relative to semantic encoding, increased recollection memory in both age groups. In Experiment 1, both groups remembered proportionally more negative than positive items when adjectives were processed semantically; however, when adjectives were processed self-referentially, both groups exhibited evidence of better recollection for the positive items, inconsistent with a positivity effect in aging. In Experiment 2, both groups reported more episodic details associated with recollected items, as measured by a memory characteristic questionnaire, for the self-reference relative to the semantic condition. Overall, these data suggest that self-referencing leads to detail-rich memory representations reflected in higher rates of recollection across age.
Project description:The medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) is regarded as a region of the brain that supports self-referential processes, including the integration of sensory information with self-knowledge and the retrieval of autobiographical information. I used functional magnetic resonance imaging and a novel procedure for eliciting autobiographical memories with excerpts of popular music dating to one's extended childhood to test the hypothesis that music and autobiographical memories are integrated in the MPFC. Dorsal regions of the MPFC (Brodmann area 8/9) were shown to respond parametrically to the degree of autobiographical salience experienced over the course of individual 30 s excerpts. Moreover, the dorsal MPFC also responded on a second, faster timescale corresponding to the signature movements of the musical excerpts through tonal space. These results suggest that the dorsal MPFC associates music and memories when we experience emotionally salient episodic memories that are triggered by familiar songs from our personal past. MPFC acted in concert with lateral prefrontal and posterior cortices both in terms of tonality tracking and overall responsiveness to familiar and autobiographically salient songs. These findings extend the results of previous autobiographical memory research by demonstrating the spontaneous activation of an autobiographical memory network in a naturalistic task with low retrieval demands.
Project description:Information that is encoded in relation to the self has been shown to be better remembered, yet reports have disagreed on whether the memory benefit from self-referential encoding extends to source memory (the context in which information was learned). In this study, we investigated the self-referential effect on source memory in recollection and familiarity-based memory. Using a Remember/Know paradigm, we compared source memory accuracy under self-referential encoding and semantic encoding. Two types of source information were included, a "peripheral" source which was not inherent to the encoding activity, and a source information about the encoding context. We observed the facilitation in item memory from self-referential encoding compared to semantic encoding in recollection but not in familiarity-based memory. The self-referential benefit to source accuracy was observed in recollection memory, with source memory for the encoding context being stronger in the self-referential condition. No significant self-referential effect was observed with regards to peripheral source information (information not required for the participant to focus on), suggesting not all source information benefit from self-referential encoding. Self-referential encoding also resulted in a higher ratio of "Remember/Know" responses rate than semantically encoded items, denoting stronger recollection. These results suggest self-referential encoding creates a richer, more detailed memory trace which can be recollected later on.
Project description:Emotion and self-referential information can both enhance memory, but whether they do so via common mechanisms across the adult lifespan remains underexplored. To address this gap, the current study directly compared, within the same fMRI paradigm, the encoding of emotionally salient and self-referential information in older adults and younger adults. Behavioral results replicated the typical patterns of better memory for emotional than neutral information and for self-referential than non-self-referential materials; these memory enhancements were present for younger and older adults. In neural activity, young and older adults showed similar modulation by emotion, but there were substantial age differences in the way self-referential processing affected neural recruitment. Contrary to our hypothesis, we found little evidence for overlap in the neural mechanisms engaged for emotional and self-referential processing. These results reveal that-just as in cognitive domains-older adults can show similar performance to younger adults in socioemotional domains even though the two age groups engage distinct neural mechanisms. These findings demonstrate the need for future research delving into the neural mechanisms supporting older adults' memory benefits for socioemotional material.
Project description:Oxytocin (OT) influences other-oriented mental processes (e.g. trust and empathy) and the underlying neural substrates. However, whether and how OT modulates self-oriented processes and the underlying brain activity remains unclear. Using a double-blind, placebo-controlled between-subjects design, we manipulated memory encoding and retrieval of trait adjectives related to the self, a friend and a celebrity in a self-referential task in male adults. Experiment 1 (N?=?51) found that OT vs placebo treatments reduced response times during encoding self-related trait adjectives but increased recognition scores of self-related information during memory retrieval. Experiment 2 (N?=?50) showed similar OT effects on response times during encoding self-related trait adjectives. Moreover, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) results revealed that OT vs placebo treatments decreased the activity in the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) involved in encoding of self-related trait adjectives and weakened the coupling between the MPFC activity and a cultural trait (i.e. interdependence). Experiment 3 (N?=?52) revealed that OT vs placebo treatments increased the right superior frontal activity during memory retrieval of self-related information. The results provide behavioral and fMRI evidence for OT effects on self-referential processing and suggest distinct patterns of OT modulations of brain activities engaged in encoding and retrieval of self-related information.
Project description:The capacity to remember self-referential past events relies on the integrity of a distributed neural network. Controversy exists, however, regarding the involvement of specific brain structures for the retrieval of recently experienced versus more distant events. Here, we explored how characteristic patterns of atrophy in neurodegenerative disorders differentially disrupt remote versus recent autobiographical memory. Eleven behavioural-variant frontotemporal dementia, 10 semantic dementia, 15 Alzheimer's disease patients and 14 healthy older Controls completed the Autobiographical Interview. All patient groups displayed significant remote memory impairments relative to Controls. Similarly, recent period retrieval was significantly compromised in behavioural-variant frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer's disease, yet semantic dementia patients scored in line with Controls. Voxel-based morphometry and diffusion tensor imaging analyses, for all participants combined, were conducted to investigate grey and white matter correlates of remote and recent autobiographical memory retrieval. Neural correlates common to both recent and remote time periods were identified, including the hippocampus, medial prefrontal, and frontopolar cortices, and the forceps minor and left hippocampal portion of the cingulum bundle. Regions exclusively implicated in each time period were also identified. The integrity of the anterior temporal cortices was related to the retrieval of remote memories, whereas the posterior cingulate cortex emerged as a structure significantly associated with recent autobiographical memory retrieval. This study represents the first investigation of the grey and white matter correlates of remote and recent autobiographical memory retrieval in neurodegenerative disorders. Our findings demonstrate the importance of core brain structures, including the medial prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, irrespective of time period, and point towards the contribution of discrete regions in mediating successful retrieval of distant versus recently experienced events.
Project description:We used fMRI to assess the neural correlates of autobiographical, semantic, and episodic memory retrieval in healthy young and older adults. Participants were tested with an event-related paradigm in which retrieval demand was the only factor varying between trials. A spatio-temporal partial least square analysis was conducted to identify the main patterns of activity characterizing the groups across conditions. We identified brain regions activated by all three memory conditions relative to a control condition. This pattern was expressed equally in both age groups and replicated previous findings obtained in a separate group of younger adults. We also identified regions whose activity differentiated among the different memory conditions. These patterns of differentiation were expressed less strongly in the older adults than in the young adults, a finding that was further confirmed by a barycentric discriminant analysis. This analysis showed an age-related dedifferentiation in autobiographical and episodic memory tasks but not in the semantic memory task or the control condition. These findings suggest that the activation of a common memory retrieval network is maintained with age, whereas the specific aspects of brain activity that differ with memory content are more vulnerable and less selectively engaged in older adults. Our results provide a potential neural mechanism for the well-known age differences in episodic/autobiographical memory, and preserved semantic memory, observed when older adults are compared with younger adults.