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Counterfactual thinking in patients with amnesia.

Mullally, SL; Maguire, EA; (2014) Counterfactual thinking in patients with amnesia. Hippocampus 10.1002/hipo.22323. Green open access

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Abstract

We often engage in counterfactual (CF) thinking, which involves reflecting on 'what might have been'. Creating alternative versions of reality seems to have parallels with recollecting the past and imagining the future in requiring the simulation of internally-generated models of complex events. Given that episodic memory and imagining the future are impaired in patients with hippocampal damage and amnesia, we wondered whether successful CF thinking also depends upon the integrity of the hippocampus. Here using two non-episodic CF thinking tasks we found that patients with bilateral hippocampal damage and amnesia performed comparably to matched controls. They could deconstruct reality, add in and recombine elements, change relations between temporal sequences of events, enabling them to determine plausible alternatives of complex episodes. A difference between the patients and control participants was evident, however, in the patients' subtle avoidance of CF simulations that required the construction of an internal spatial representation. Overall, our findings suggest that mental simulation in the form of non-episodic CF thinking, does not seem to depend upon the hippocampus unless there is the added requirement for construction of a coherent spatial scene within which to play out scenarios. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Type: Article
Title: Counterfactual thinking in patients with amnesia.
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1002/hipo.22323
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hipo.22323
Additional information: © 2014 THE AUTHORS. HIPPOCAMPUS PUBLISHED BY WILEY PERIODICALS, INC. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: amnesia, counterfactual thinking, episodic memory, hippocampus, imagination, scene construction
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Imaging Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1434292
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