Dr. Rubin has brought cognitive psychology into a wholly unprecedented dialogue with studies in oral tradition.
This book reviews the latest research in the field of autobiographical memory.
In the mnemonic model of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the current memory of a negative event, not the event itself, determines symptoms. The model is an alternative to the current event-based etiology of PTSD represented in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., text rev.; American Psychiatric Association, 2000). The model accounts for important and reliable findings that are often inconsistent with the current diagnostic view and that have been neglected by theoretical accounts of the disorder, including the following observations. The diagnosis needs objective information about the trauma and peritraumatic emotions but uses retrospective memory reports that can have substantial biases. Negative events and emotions that do not satisfy the current diagnostic criteria for a trauma can be followed by symptoms that would otherwise qualify for PTSD. Predisposing factors that affect the current memory have large effects on symptoms. The inability-to-recall-an-important-aspect-of-the-trauma symptom does not correlate with other symptoms. Loss or enhancement of the trauma memory affects PTSD symptoms in predictable ways. Special mechanisms that apply only to traumatic memories are not needed, increasing parsimony and the knowledge that can be applied to understanding PTSD.
One hundred fifteen undergraduates rated 15 word-cued memories and their 3 most negatively stressful, 3 most positive, and 7 most important events and completed tests of personality and depression. Eighty-nine also recorded involuntary memories online for 1 week. In the first 3-way comparisons needed to test existing theories, comparisons were made of memories of stressful events versus control events and involuntary versus voluntary memories in people high versus low in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom severity. For all participants, stressful memories had more emotional intensity, more frequent voluntary and involuntary retrieval, but not more fragmentation. For all memories, participants with greater PTSD symptom severity showed the same differences. Involuntary memories had more emotional intensity and less centrality to the life story than voluntary memories. Meeting the diagnostic criteria for traumatic events had no effect, but the emotional responses to events did. In 533 undergraduates, correlations among measures were replicated and the Negative Intensity factor of the Affect Intensity Measure correlated with PTSD symptom severity. No special trauma mechanisms were needed to account for the results, which are summarized by the autobiographical memory theory of PTSD.
We sought to map the time course of autobiographical memory retrieval, including brain regions that mediate phenomenological experiences of reliving and emotional intensity. Participants recalled personal memories to auditory word cues during event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Participants pressed a button when a memory was accessed, maintained and elaborated the memory, and then gave subjective ratings of emotion and reliving. A novel fMRI approach based on timing differences capitalized on the protracted reconstructive process of autobiographical memory to segregate brain areas contributing to initial access and later elaboration and maintenance of episodic memories. The initial period engaged hippocampal, retrosplenial, and medial and right prefrontal activity, whereas the later period recruited visual, precuneus, and left prefrontal activity. Emotional intensity ratings were correlated with activity in several regions, including the amygdala and the hippocampus during the initial period. Reliving ratings were correlated with activity in visual cortex and ventromedial and inferior prefrontal regions during the later period. Frontopolar cortex was the only brain region sensitive to emotional intensity across both periods. Results were confirmed by time-locked averages of the fMRI signal. The findings indicate dynamic recruitment of emotion-, memory-, and sensory-related brain regions during remembering and their dissociable contributions to phenomenological features of the memories.
We introduce a new scale that measures how central an event is to a person's identity and life story. For the most stressful or traumatic event in a person's life, the full 20-item Centrality of Event Scale (CES) and the short 7-item scale are reliable (α's of .94 and .88, respectively) in a sample of 707 undergraduates. The scale correlates .38 with PTSD symptom severity and .23 with depression. The present findings are discussed in relation to previous work on individual differences related to PTSD symptoms. Possible connections between the CES and measures of maladaptive attributions and rumination are considered along with suggestions for future research. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
On September 12, 2001, 54 Duke students recorded their memory of first hearing about the terrorist attacks of September 11 and of a recent everyday event. They were tested again either 1, 6, or 32 weeks later. Consistency for the flashbulb and everyday memories did not differ, in both cases declining over time. However, ratings of vividness, recollection, and belief in the accuracy of memory declined only for everyday memories. Initial visceral emotion ratings correlated with later belief in accuracy, but not consistency, for flashbulb memories. Initial visceral emotion ratings predicted later posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms. Flashbulb memories are not special in their accuracy, as previously claimed, but only in their perceived accuracy.
We describe a form of amnesia, which we have called visual memory-deficit amnesia, that is caused by damage to areas of the visual system that store visual information. Because it is caused by a deficit in access to stored visual material and not by an impaired ability to encode or retrieve new material, it has the otherwise infrequent properties of a more severe retrograde than anterograde amnesia with no temporal gradient in the retrograde amnesia. Of the 11 cases of long-term visual memory loss found in the literature, all had amnesia extending beyond a loss of visual memory, often including a near total loss of pretraumatic episodic memory. Of the 6 cases in which both the severity of retrograde and anterograde amnesia and the temporal gradient of the retrograde amnesia were noted, 4 had a more severe retrograde amnesia with no temporal gradient and 2 had a less severe retrograde amnesia with a temporal gradient.
The amnesic patient H.M. has been solving crossword puzzles nearly all his life. Here, we analysed the linguistic content of 277 of H.M.'s crossword-puzzle solutions. H.M. did not have any unusual difficulties with the orthographic and grammatical components inherent to the puzzles. He exhibited few spelling errors, responded with appropriate parts of speech, and provided answers that were, at times, more convincing to observers than those supplied by the answer keys. These results suggest that H.M.'s lexical word-retrieval skills remain fluid despite his profound anterograde amnesia. Once acquired, the maintenance of written language comprehension and production does not seem to require intact medial temporal lobe structures.