Retrieval mechanisms for autobiographical memories: insights from the frontal variant of frontotemporal dementia

Neuropsychologia. 2006;44(12):2386-97. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2006.04.031. Epub 2006 Jun 14.


Very few studies have investigated autobiographical memory in the frontal variant of frontotemporal dementia (fv-FTD). The aim of this study was therefore to unravel the mechanisms of autobiographical memory disruption in general and in the anterograde and retrograde components of amnesia in particular, in patients suffering from fv-FTD. An autobiographical memory task assessing overall (AM) and strictly episodic memories (EM) from five lifetime periods covering the entire lifespan revealed the absence of a temporal gradient for both scores, suggesting the existence of a retrieval deficit. An analysis of the correlation between these two scores and a general cognitive assessment of executive function, working, episodic (i.e. new learning ability) and semantic memory, and behavioural changes highlighted the considerable involvement of executive function, semantic memory and, to a lesser degree, episodic memory and behavioural changes. Moreover, step-wise regression analyses performed on the EM score revealed that the executive function was a better predictor of the retrograde component than of the anterograde component, which was linked principally to new episodic learning ability. All these results confirm the impact of executive dysfunction on autobiographical deficits in fv-FTD, and suggest that the mechanisms at the root of autobiographical memory disruption may also involve difficulties in new episodic learning and semantic storage, though this may be due to the fact that we studied an advanced form of fv-FTD.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Amnesia / physiopathology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Autoradiography*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Dementia / complications
  • Dementia / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Problem Solving
  • Reference Values
  • Regression Analysis
  • Surveys and Questionnaires