Laboratoire mémoire et cognition, Université Paris Descartes, Boulogne-Billancourt, France, Centre de psychiatrie et neurosciences, Inserm UMR S894, Université Paris Descartes, Paris, France, UMR-CNRS 7295, Centre de recherches sur la cognition et l’apprentissage, Université de Poitiers, France
Episodic memory deficits are almost always the first cognitive impairment in Alzheimer disease (AD). AD is also characterized by a loss of self-awareness. The aim of this article is to give an interpretation of AD patients’ episodic impairments through the study of the relationship between memory and the self. Using the Remember/Know paradigm associated with the self-reference effect and emotional valence, we showed that this relationship may be impaired in AD. On the one hand, this could explain AD patients’ difficulty accessing autonoetic consciousness, that is to say mentally bring back events of the past. On the other hand, the difficulty to precisely relive previous events may be in turn at the root of AD patients’ loss of self-awareness, namely anosognosia. Thus, based on the previous studies in the field of self-referential processing and on our findings, we proposed that the combination of an emotion analysis and a cognitive approach of AD patients’ episodic memory impairments is an interesting way to better understand the complete functioning of AD patients.