Functional Neuroimaging Studies of Autobiographical Memory Retrieval: Past, Present, and Future

  • Donna Rose AddisEmail author
  • Kristina Wiebels
  • Aleea L. Devitt


Remembering events from our past – a form of memory known as episodic autobiographical memory (AM) – not only allows us to reminisce, but also to imagine the future, solve open-ended problems, and engage in creative thought. Two decades of neuroimaging research have established the core regions comprising the brain network supporting AM retrieval. Overlapping substantially with the default mode network, the AM retrieval network includes medial and lateral cortices in the prefrontal, temporal, and parietal lobes, the posterior cerebellum, and critically, the hippocampus. We take a historical perspective on past neuroimaging studies of AM to elucidate how the development of various neuroimaging methods have yielded increasing clarity on how the brain supports AM retrieval, including identification of the core nodes of the AM retrieval network and how activation may vary depending on the phase of retrieval (search versus elaboration), the recency of the memory and its recollective qualities, and the age of the rememberer. We discuss some presently emerging findings that the hippocampus is involved not only in AM retrieval, but also future simulation, in addition to new work using multivariate pattern analysis to uncover the brain patterns that represent the content of AMs and the processes of remembering and imagining. Finally, we end with some speculations about where memory research will take us in the future.


Aging Autobiographical memory Default mode network Episodic memory Future thinking Hippocampus Imagination Multivariate pattern analysis Neuroimaging Recollection 


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan KK 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donna Rose Addis
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Kristina Wiebels
    • 1
    • 2
  • Aleea L. Devitt
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Psychology and Centre for Brain ResearchThe University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.Brain Research New ZealandAucklandNew Zealand
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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