The neural correlates of specific versus general autobiographical memory construction and elaboration

Neuropsychologia. 2011 Oct;49(12):3164-77. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2011.07.015. Epub 2011 Jul 23.


We examined the neural correlates of specific (i.e., unique to time and place) and general (i.e., extended in or repeated over time) autobiographical memories (AMs) during their initial construction and later elaboration phases. The construction and elaboration of specific and general events engaged a widely distributed set of regions previously associated with AM recall. Specific (vs. general) event construction preferentially engaged prefrontal and medial temporal lobe regions known to be critical for memory search and retrieval processes. General event elaboration was differentiated from specific event elaboration by extensive right-lateralized prefrontal cortex (PFC) activity. Interaction analyses confirmed that PFC activity was disproportionately engaged by specific AMs during construction, and general AMs during elaboration; a similar pattern was evident in regions of the left lateral temporal lobe. These neural differences between specific and general AM construction and elaboration were largely unrelated to reported differences in the level of detail recalled about each type of event.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Reaction Time
  • Semantics*
  • Statistics as Topic*
  • Time Factors
  • Verbal Learning / physiology*
  • Vocabulary
  • Young Adult