Turning back the hands of time: autobiographical memories in dementia cued by a museum setting

Conscious Cogn. 2013 Sep;22(3):1074-81. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2013.07.008. Epub 2013 Aug 15.


The current study examined the effects of cuing autobiographical memory retrieval in 12 older participants with dementia through immersion into a historically authentic environment that recreated the material and cultural context of the participants' youth. Participants conversed in either an everyday setting (control condition) or a museum setting furnished in early twentieth century style (experimental condition) while being presented with condition matched cues. Conversations were coded for memory content based on an adapted version of Levine, Svoboda, Hay, Winocur, and Moscovitch (2002) coding scheme. More autobiographical memories were recalled in the museum setting, and these memories were more elaborated, more spontaneous and included especially more internal (episodic) details compared to memories in the control condition. The findings have theoretical and practical implications by showing that the memories retrieved in the museum setting were both quantitatively and qualitatively different from memories retrieved during a control condition.

Keywords: Aging; Autobiographical memory; Dementia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology*
  • Cues*
  • Dementia, Vascular / physiopathology*
  • Environment*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Museums