Autobiographical memory in semantic dementia: A longitudinal fMRI study.
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Whilst patients with semantic dementia (SD) are known to suffer from semantic memory and language impairments, there is less agreement about whether memory for personal everyday experiences, autobiographical memory, is compromised. In healthy individuals, functional MRI (fMRI) has helped to delineate a consistent and distributed brain network associated with autobiographical recollection. Here we examined how the progression of SD affected the brain's autobiographical memory network over time. We did this by testing autobiographical memory recall in a SD patient, AM, with fMRI on three occasions, each one year apart, during the course of his disease. At the outset, his autobiographical memory was intact. This was followed by a gradual loss in recollective quality that collapsed only late in the course of the disease. There was no evidence of a temporal gradient. Initially, AM's recollection was supported by the classic autobiographical memory network, including atrophied tissue in hippocampus and temporal neocortex. This was subsequently augmented by up-regulation of other parts of the memory system, namely ventromedial and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, right lateral temporal cortex, and precuneus. A final step-change in the areas engaged and the quality of recollection then preceded the collapse of autobiographical memory. Our findings inform theoretical debates about the role of the hippocampus and neocortical areas in supporting remote autobiographical memories. Furthermore, our results suggest it may be possible to define specific stages in SD-related memory decline, and that fMRI could complement MRI and neuropsychological measures in providing more precise prognostic and rehabilitative information for clinicians and carets. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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