Episodic simulation of future events is impaired in mild Alzheimer's disease

Neuropsychologia. 2009 Oct;47(12):2660-71. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2009.05.018. Epub 2009 Jun 2.


Recent neuroimaging studies have demonstrated that both remembering the past and simulating the future activate a core neural network including the medial temporal lobes. Regions of this network, in particular the medial temporal lobes, are prime sites for amyloid deposition and are structurally and functionally compromised in Alzheimer's disease (AD). While we know some functions of this core network, specifically episodic autobiographical memory, are impaired in AD, no study has examined whether future episodic simulation is similarly impaired. We tested the ability of sixteen AD patients and sixteen age-matched controls to generate past and future autobiographical events using an adapted version of the Autobiographical Interview. Participants also generated five remote autobiographical memories from across the lifespan. Event transcriptions were segmented into distinct details, classified as either internal (episodic) or external (non-episodic). AD patients exhibited deficits in both remembering past events and simulating future events, generating fewer internal and external episodic details than healthy older controls. The internal and external detail scores were strongly correlated across past and future events, providing further evidence of the close linkages between the mental representations of past and future.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology*
  • Autobiographies as Topic
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Famous Persons
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagination / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Names
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Reference Values
  • Statistics as Topic