Autobiographical episodic memory in major depressive disorder

J Abnorm Psychol. 2014 Feb;123(1):51-60. doi: 10.1037/a0035610.


Autobiographical memory in major depression has been characterized as overgeneralized, with patients recalling few episodic details, prioritizing general schematic events. However, whether this effect reflects impaired episodic or semantic memory, or domain-general cognitive processes, is unknown. We used the Autobiographical Interview (Levine, Svoboda, Hay, Winocur, & Moscovitch, 2002) to derive episodic and semantic contributions to autobiographical memory in patients with severe major depression. We also assessed memory for public events and famous people. Depressed patients were impaired on episodic, but not semantic, autobiographical memory from 2 weeks to 10 years before testing. They were also impaired on memory for public events, possibly because they followed the news less than controls. Patients' memory for famous names was not impaired, although this was strongly associated with non-episodic memories to a greater degree than in controls. The findings suggest a specific impairment of episodic autobiographical memory in depression that is not fully accounted for by domain-general processes involved in strategic retrieval.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Mental Recall*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests