Future decision-making without episodic mental time travel

Hippocampus. 2012 Jun;22(6):1215-9. doi: 10.1002/hipo.20981. Epub 2011 Oct 13.


Deficits in episodic memory are associated with deficits in the ability to imagine future experiences (i.e., mental time travel). We show that K.C., a person with episodic amnesia and an inability to imagine future experiences, nonetheless systematically discounts the value of future rewards, and his discounting is within the range of controls in terms of both rate and consistency. Because K.C. is neither able to imagine personal uses for the rewards nor provide a rationale for selecting larger future rewards over smaller current rewards, this study demonstrates a dissociation between imagining and making decisions involving the future. Thus, although those capable of mental time travel may use it in making decisions about future rewards, these results demonstrate that it is not required for such decisions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amnesia / complications
  • Amnesia / diagnosis*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Imagination / physiology
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Temporal Lobe / pathology*