The comparison of recent and remote autobiographical memories is often confounded by qualitative disparities across memories of different ages, such as vividness. In this study, ten individuals prospectively collected audio recordings that were used to cue memories of recent (~1 month old) and remote (~1.5 year old) everyday events. Because the retrieval cues were recorded at the time of event, they were highly potent. Although remote events did not differ in novelty, importance, or emotional change at the time at the time of encoding, half of the cues for these events induced retrieval comparable in vividness to recent events (all of which were vividly re-experienced). Recent and remote vivid memories were associated with a neural pattern that included right frontal, left parietal and limbic regions that were active early in the retrieval period. Non-vivid remote memories were associated with a later onset of a bilateral distributed pattern that included regions in the frontal, parietal, and temporal lobes. Functional connectivity analysis indicated that the left anterior hippocampus was co-activated with bilateral frontal, parahippocampal, and parietal regions for vivid memories (irrespective of memory age) early in the retrieval period, whereas non-vivid memories, alongside recent memories, showed later and broader co-activation with frontal, parietal, occipital, and temporal regions. The absence of a significant difference between the recent and remote vivid memories may be due to insufficient power to detect potential subtle differences between these conditions. Nonetheless, there was evidence for different patterns of hippocampal-neocortical connectivity for remote memories and recent memories, irrespective of vividness. These findings suggest that while there is a functional shift in hippocampal connectivity that is associated with memory age when very recent events are used, vividness is strongly associated with both activation and functional connectivity patterns irrespective of memory age.
Keywords: Autobiographical memory; Episodic memory; Hippocampus; Neuroimaging.