Memory of myself: autobiographical memory and identity in Alzheimer's disease

Memory. 2004 Jan;12(1):56-74. doi: 10.1080/09658210244000423.


A number of theories posit a relationship between autobiographical memory and identity. To test this we assessed the status of autobiographical memory and identity in 20 individuals with Alzheimer's disease (AD) and 20 age-matched controls, and investigated whether degree of autobiographical memory impairment was associated with changes in identity. Two tests of autobiographical memory (Autobiographical Memory Interview, autobiographical fluency) and two measures of identity (Twenty Statements Test, identity items of the Tennessee Self Concept Scale) were administered. AD participants exhibited significant impairments on both memory tests, and changes in the strength, quality, and direction of identity relative to controls. Impairments of some components of autobiographical memory, particularly autobiographical memory for childhood and early adulthood, were related to changes in the strength and quality of identity. These findings support the critical role of early adulthood autobiographical memories (16-25 years) in identity, and suggest autobiographical memory loss affects identity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / etiology
  • Memory Disorders / psychology*
  • Mental Recall
  • Psychological Tests
  • Self Concept*