Severely deficient autobiographical memory (SDAM) in healthy adults: A new mnemonic syndrome

Neuropsychologia. 2015 Jun;72:105-18. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2015.04.012. Epub 2015 Apr 17.


Recollection of previously experienced events is a key element of human memory that entails recovery of spatial, perceptual, and mental state details. While deficits in this capacity in association with brain disease have serious functional consequences, little is known about individual differences in autobiographical memory (AM) in healthy individuals. Recently, healthy adults with highly superior autobiographical capacities have been identified (e.g., LePort, A.K., Mattfeld, A.T., Dickinson-Anson, H., Fallon, J.H., Stark, C.E., Kruggel, F., McGaugh, J.L., 2012. Behavioral and neuroanatomical investigation of Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM). Neurobiol. Learn. Mem. 98(1), 78-92. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2012.05.002). Here we report data from three healthy, high functioning adults with the reverse pattern: lifelong severely deficient autobiographical memory (SDAM) with otherwise preserved cognitive function. Their self-reported selective inability to vividly recollect personally experienced events from a first-person perspective was corroborated by absence of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and event-related potential (ERP) biomarkers associated with naturalistic and laboratory episodic recollection, as well as by behavioral evidence of impaired episodic retrieval, particularly for visual information. Yet learning and memory were otherwise intact, as long as these tasks could be accomplished by non-episodic processes. Thus these individuals function normally in day-to-day life, even though their past is experienced in the absence of recollection.

Keywords: Autobiographical memory; Case study; Episodic memory; Hippocampus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cues
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / blood supply
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / pathology*
  • Memory Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Verbal Learning / physiology


  • Oxygen