Autobiographical memory and the self in time: brain lesion effects, functional neuroanatomy, and lifespan development

Brain Cogn. 2004 Jun;55(1):54-68. doi: 10.1016/S0278-2626(03)00280-X.


Autobiographical remembering reflects an advanced state of consciousness that mediates awareness of the self as continuous across time. In naturalistic autobiographical memory, self-aware recollection of temporally and spatially specific episodes and generic factual information (both public and personal) operate in tandem. Evidence from both laboratory and real-life studies, however, suggests that these two processes can be dissociated. This paper reviews aging, lesion, and functional neuroimaging research on the anatomical substrates of autobiographical memory processes using a new measure, the Autobiographical Interview, and prospective collection of autobiographical material. Results indicate that autobiographical recollection is mediated by a distributed fronto-temporo-parietal system, with the anteromedial prefrontal cortex positioned to integrate sensory information with self-specific information. The emergence of autobiographical recollection at around age four coincides with the timing of prefrontal regressive cortical and progressive white matter changes that may support the development of this high-level capacity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Aging / psychology
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / physiopathology
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Ego
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Frontal Lobe / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Neuroanatomy*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology
  • Self Concept*