Ageing research reviews 2015 07 1023(Pt B) 183-92 doi 10.1016/j.arr.2015.07.001
Autobiographical memory, or memory for personal experiences, allows individuals to define themselves and construct a meaningful life story. Decline of this ability, as observed in Alzheimer’s disease (AD), results in an impaired sense of self and identity. In our model (AMAD: Autobiographical Memory in Alzheimer’s Disease), we present a critical review of theories and findings regarding cognitive and neuroanatomical underpinnings of autobiographical memory and its decline in AD and highlight studies on its clinical rehabilitation. We propose that autobiographical recall in AD is mainly characterized by loss of associated episodic information, which leads to de-contextualization of autobiographical memories and a shift from reliving past events to a general sense of familiarity. This decline refers to retrograde, but also anterograde amnesia that affects newly acquired memories besides remote ones. One consequence of autobiographical memory decline in AD is decreased access to memories that shape self-consciousness, self-knowledge, and self-images, leading to a diminished sense of self and identity. The link between autobiographical decline and compromised sense of self in AD can also manifest itself as low correspondence and coherence between past memories and current goals and beliefs. By linking cognitive, neuroanatomical, and clinical aspects of autobiographical decline in AD, our review provides a theoretical foundation, which may lead to better rehabilitation strategies.