The Episodic-Semantic Continuum in Autobiographical Memory and Future Thinking: A new classification system

When and Where

Wednesday, February 13, 2019 12:15 pm to 1:30 pm
Room 3130
Sidney Smith Hall
100 St. George Street




Video Recording of Talk

Abstract: narratives inherently contain a mixture of episodic (event) and semantic (factual) elements. Recent theoretical frameworks, however, contend that, rather than representing two independent subsystems, episodic and semantic memory may lie at opposite ends of a continuum. Here, I present a novel, fine-grained method of classifying the varying degrees of episodic and semantic information contained within autobiographical narratives of personal past and imagined future events. Specifically, this new taxonomy segments the ‘external’ details on the Autobiographical Interview (AI) into four new subcategories: Specific Episodes, Extended Episodes, Personal Semantics, and General Semantics. Results from two studies will be discussed: 1) Validation of the New External details taxonomy (NExt) on previously collected AI data from patients with Alzheimer’s disease and semantic dementia, syndromes with respective impairments in episodic and semantic memory, compared with healthy older adults, and 2) Application of the NExt taxonomy to episodic future thinking narratives in these same populations. The NExt taxonomy reveals distinct profiles of external detail subcategories across different populations and lifetime periods. Notably, production of these NExt detail types is associated with differential patterns of grey matter integrity across the patient groups. These findings highlight the utility of the NExt taxonomy in providing nuanced profiles of autobiographical memory and future thinking across clinical and non-clinical groups, and further reinforce the blurring of the episodic-semantic distinction.

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100 St. George Street