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Anatomy and Embryology

, Volume 210, Issue 5–6, pp 497–512 | Cite as

Recollections of one’s own past: the effects of aging and gender on the neural mechanisms of episodic autobiographical memory

  • Martina PiefkeEmail author
  • Gereon R. Fink
Original Article

Abstract

Episodic autobiographical recollection is the most complex form of human memory. It relies on interactions between episodic memory, associated emotions, and a sense of self-continuity along the time axis of one’s personal life history. Evidence exists that autobiographical memory performance as well as its underlying brain mechanisms are influenced by genetic, physiological, psychological, situational, and social-cultural factors. In particular, age (normal cognitive aging as well as age of memories, as defined by the time interval elapsed since information encoding) and gender affect both the performance level and the neural substrates of autobiographical recollection. In this review, studies concerned with aging and gender effects on autobiographical memory are discussed with reference to other age- and gender-related influences on human cognition, as well as clinical data on demented patients. Both age and gender act upon the functional hemispheric lateralization of autobiographical recollection and the prefrontal, hippocampal and parahippocampal engagement in information processing. On the performance level, re-collective qualities such as episodic detail and emotional intensity of autobiographical memories are modulated by both factors. Although the effects of aging and gender on human brain function are built upon different genetic and physiological mechanisms, they influence at least in part the same neurofunctional and behavioral dimensions of autobiographical recollection. Interestingly, age- and gender-related specificities in the neural mechanisms of autobiographical recollection need not be reflected on the performance level.

Keywords

FMRI Biological aging Sex Neurodegenerative diseases Hippocampus 

Notes

Acknowledgements

GRF is supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG—KFO 112) and the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF—01lBC01G/MODKOG). MP is supported by the Hans Lungwitz Stiftung (HLS), Berlin and the START program of the RWTH Aachen.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of MedicineResearch Center JülichJülichGermany
  2. 2.Brain Imaging Center WestResearch Center JülichJülichGermany
  3. 3.Department of Neurology—Cognitive NeurologyUniversity Hospital Aachen, Rheinisch-Westfälische-Technische Hochschule (RWTH)AachenGermany

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