Episodic memory dysfunction, commonly assessed with word list recall, is the main characteristic of amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment (aMCI). While brain pathology underlying this kind of memory impairment is well established in aMCI, little is known about the effect of neurodegeneration on autobiographical memory. The present study investigated neuronal correlates of autobiographical memory in aMCI patients (n=12) and healthy elderly controls (n=13) using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Additionally, voxel-based morphometry (VBM) was employed to reveal brain pathology in aMCI patients. Neuropsychological assessment showed significant impairment in episodic memory tasks (immediate and delayed word list recall) in aMCI patients. Moreover, VBM revealed significantly reduced gray matter concentration, which was most pronounced in the temporal lobes of aMCI patients. Despite episodic memory impairment and atrophy in areas that are associated with encoding and recall of episodic memories, aMCI patients showed no alterations in brain activation associated with autobiographical memory retrieval. These findings could suggest that autobiographical memory is subserved by a different neuronal network than episodic memory and that the two memory systems are differently affected by aMCI.
Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.