Behavioral and functional neuroanatomical correlates of anterograde autobiographical memory in isolated retrograde amnesic patient M.L

Neuropsychologia. 2009 Sep;47(11):2188-96. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2008.12.026. Epub 2008 Dec 30.


Patient M.L. [Levine, B., Black, S. E., Cabeza, R., Sinden, M., Mcintosh, A. R., Toth, J. P., et al. (1998). Episodic memory and the self in a case of isolated retrograde amnesia. Brain, 121, 1951-1973], lost memory for events occurring before his severe traumatic brain injury, yet his anterograde (post-injury) learning and memory appeared intact, a syndrome known as isolated or focal retrograde amnesia. Studies with M.L. demonstrated a dissociation between episodic and semantic memory. His retrograde amnesia was specific to episodic autobiographical memory. Convergent behavioral and functional imaging data suggested that his anterograde memory, while appearing normal, was accomplished with reduced autonoetic awareness (awareness of the self as a continuous entity across time that is a crucial element of episodic memory). While previous research on M.L. focused on anterograde memory of laboratory stimuli, in this study, M.L.'s autobiographical memory for post-injury events or anterograde autobiographical memory was examined using prospective collection of autobiographical events via audio diary with detailed behavioral and functional neuroanatomical analysis. Consistent with his reports of subjective disconnection from post-injury autobiographical events, M.L. assigned fewer "remember" ratings to his autobiographical events than comparison subjects. His generation of event-specific details using the Autobiographical Interview [Levine, B., Svoboda, E., Hay, J., Winocur, G., & Moscovitch, M. (2002). Aging and autobiographical memory: dissociating episodic from semantic retrieval. Psychology and Aging, 17, 677-689] was low, but not significantly so, suggesting that it is possible to generate episodic-like details even when re-experiencing of those details is compromised. While listening to the autobiographical audio diary segments, M.L. showed reduced activation relative to comparison subjects in midline frontal and posterior nodes previously identified as part of the autobiographical memory network. Reductions were also evident in M.L. in association with personal semantic stimuli (e.g., recordings describing personal habits and routines). These data suggest an association between M.L.'s impoverished recollection of autobiographical material and reduced activation in midline sectors of the autobiographical memory network that support the autonoetic, first-person element of episodic memory.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Amnesia, Retrograde* / pathology
  • Amnesia, Retrograde* / physiopathology
  • Amnesia, Retrograde* / psychology
  • Autobiographies as Topic*
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Reaction Time
  • Self Concept
  • Semantics
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen