A basic-systems approach to autobiographical memory

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Memory for complex everyday events involving vision, hearing, smell, emotion, narrative, and language cannot be understood without considering the properties of the separate systems that process and store each of these forms of information. Using this premise as a starting point, my colleagues and I found that visual memory plays a central role in autobiographical memory: The strength of recollection of an event is predicted best by the vividness of its visual imagery, and a loss of visual memory causes a general amnesia. Examination of autobiographical memories in individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) suggests that the lack of coherence often noted in memories of traumatic events is not due to a lack of coherence either of the memory itself or of the narrative that integrates the memory into the life story. Rather, making the traumatic memory central to the life story correlates positively with increased PTSD symptoms. The basic-systems approach has yielded insights into autobiographical memory's phenomenology, neuropsychology, clinical disorders, and neural basis. Copyright © 2005 American Psychological Society.






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Rubin, DC (2005). A basic-systems approach to autobiographical memory. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14(2). pp. 79–83. 10.1111/j.0963-7214.2005.00339.x Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/10105.

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David C. Rubin

Juanita M. Kreps Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

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My main research interest has been in long-term memory, especially for complex (or "real-world") stimuli. This work includes the study of autobiographical memory and oral traditions, as well as prose. I have also studied memory as it is more commonly done in experimental psychology laboratories using lists. In addition to this purely behavioral research, which I plan to continue, I work on memory in clinical populations with the aid of a National Institute of Mental Health grant to study PTSD and on the underlying neural basis of memory the aid of a National Institute of Aging grant to study autobiographical memory using fMRI.

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