Why Am I Remembering This Now? Predicting the Occurrence of Involuntary (Spontaneous) Episodic Memories.
ABSTRACT Involuntary episodic memories are memories of events that come to mind spontaneously, that is, with no preceding retrieval attempts. They are common in daily life and observed in a range of clinical disorders in the form of negative, intrusive recollections or flashbacks. However, little is known about their underlying mechanisms. Here we report a series of experiments in which-for the first time-the activation of involuntary memories is controlled and predicted on the basis of manipulations done at encoding. During encoding, participants were presented with pictures of scenes paired with sounds. Both scene and sound could be either unique (derived from a category that was presented only once) or repeated (derived from a category that was presented several times). During retrieval, the participants conducted an attention-demanding sound location task employing sounds from the encoding phase. In addition to the sound location task, they were asked to record all memories that might spontaneously arise during this task. Unique sounds generated most involuntary memories, consistent with the notion of cue overload. Repeated sounds rarely generated involuntary memories, but often yielded memories of repeated scenes in a voluntary (strategic) recall condition. Retrieval times were lower for involuntary than for comparable samples of strategically retrieved memories, suggesting less executive control involved in involuntary recall. Our findings show that it is possible to control the activation of involuntary episodic memories of daily scenes on the basis of well-known mechanisms of associative memory. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved).
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ABSTRACT: New episodic memories are retained better if learning is followed by a few minutes of wakeful rest than by the encoding of novel external information. Novel encoding is said to interfere with the consolidation of recently acquired episodic memories. Here we report four experiments in which we examined whether autobiographical thinking, i.e. an 'internal' memory activity, also interferes with episodic memory consolidation. Participants were presented with three wordlists consisting of common nouns; one list was followed by wakeful rest, one by novel picture encoding and one by autobiographical retrieval/future imagination, cued by concrete sounds. Both novel encoding and autobiographical retrieval/future imagination lowered wordlist retention significantly. Follow-up experiments demonstrated that the interference by our cued autobiographical retrieval/future imagination delay condition could not be accounted for by the sound cues alone or by executive retrieval processes. Moreover, our results demonstrated evidence of a temporal gradient of interference across experiments. Thus, we propose that rich autobiographical retrieval/future imagination hampers the consolidation of recently acquired episodic memories and that such interference is particularly likely in the presence of external concrete cues.PLoS ONE 04/2014; 9(4):e93915. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Recent studies have shown that involuntary autobiographical memories (IAMs) can be elicited in the laboratory. Here we assessed whether the specific instructions given to participants can change the nature of the IAMs reported, in terms of both their frequency and their characteristics. People were either made or not made aware that the aim of the study was to examine IAMs. They reported mental contents either whenever they became aware of them or following a predetermined schedule. Both making people aware of the aim of the study and following a fixed schedule of interruptions increased significantly the number of IAMs reported. When aware of the aim of the study, participants reported more specific memories that had been retrieved and rehearsed more often in the past. These findings demonstrate that the number and characteristics of memories depend on the procedure used. Explanations of these effects and their implications for research on IAMs are discussed.PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(4):e89582. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Voluntary episodic memories require an intentional memory search, whereas involuntary episodic memories come to mind spontaneously without conscious effort. Cognitive neuroscience has largely focused on voluntary memory, leaving the neural mechanisms of involuntary memory largely unknown. We hypothesized that, because the main difference between voluntary and involuntary memory is the controlled retrieval processes required by the former, there would be greater frontal activity for voluntary than involuntary memories. Conversely, we predicted that other components of the episodic retrieval network would be similarly engaged in the two types of memory. During encoding, all participants heard sounds, half paired with pictures of complex scenes and half presented alone. During retrieval, paired and unpaired sounds were presented, panned to the left or to the right. Participants in the involuntary group were instructed to indicate the spatial location of the sound, whereas participants in the voluntary group were asked to additionally recall the pictures that had been paired with the sounds. All participants reported the incidence of their memories in a postscan session. Consistent with our predictions, voluntary memories elicited greater activity in dorsal frontal regions than involuntary memories, whereas other components of the retrieval network, including medial-temporal, ventral occipitotemporal, and ventral parietal regions were similarly engaged by both types of memories. These results clarify the distinct role of dorsal frontal and ventral occipitotemporal regions in predicting strategic retrieval and recalled information, respectively, and suggest that, although there are neural differences in retrieval, involuntary memories share neural components with established voluntary memory systems.Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 04/2014; · 4.49 Impact Factor