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Personal semantic and episodic autobiographical memories in Korsakoff syndrome: A comparison of interview methods

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Yvonne C M Rensen, Roy P C Kessels, Ellen M. Migo, Arie J. Wester, Paul A T M Eling, Michael D. Kopelman

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)534-546
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology
Issue number6
Early online date10 Nov 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Nov 2016


King's Authors


Objective: The temporal gradient in patients with Korsakoff’s syndrome has been of particular interest in the literature, as many studies have found evidence for a steep temporal gradient, but others have observed more uniform remote memory impairment across all past time periods. Inconsistencies might be the result of the nature of remote memory impairment under study (i.e., nonpersonal or autobiographical memory) and of methodological differences in the examination of remote memory loss. The aim of this study was to examine whether differences between autobiographical memory interview (AMI) and autobiographical interview (AI) procedures influence the presence of a temporal gradient in semantic and episodic autobiographical memory in Korsakoff patients. Method: The procedure used in the present study combined the AMI and AI into one study session. We compared the performance of 20 patients with Korsakoff’s syndrome and 27 healthy controls. First, participants were asked to recall knowledge from different life periods. Second, participants were asked to recall memories from five life periods. Thirdly, participants were asked to rate their subjective experience of each event recalled on a 5-point scale. Finally, we analyzed the findings in terms of all the memories recalled versus the first memory from each life-period only. Results: Both the AMI and the AI showed a temporally graded retrograde amnesia in the Korsakoff patients for personal semantic and episodic autobiographical memories. The pattern of amnesia in Korsakoff patients was not affected by examining only one event per life-period. Subjective ratings of recalled memories were largely comparable between the groups. Conclusions: The findings were generally consistent across the AMI and AI. Varying the number of events did not affect the pattern of the gradient. Hence, the temporal gradient in Korsakoff patients is not an artefact of either the AMI or the AI method.

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