Psychologie & NeuroPsychiatrie du vieillissement


Le vieillissement normal de la mémoire autobiographique Volume 1, issue 1, Mars 2003


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Institut de psychologie, Université René Descartes, Paris 5

Episodic memory deficits are caracteristic of old subjects. However, few results concern studies of autobiographical memory, one of the most essential part of human memory. Usually remote, but not recent, memory is regarded as preserved in aging. This phenomenom is well known as the Ribot’s law. We briefly present the recent models of autobiographical memory and we detail the different aspects of aging on the two components, either episodic or semantic, of autobiographical memory. The data are reviewed with respect to the different kinds of autobiographical memory assessments : cue-words technique, autobiographical verbal fluency and interview. In addition, we present the results from novel autobiographical memory tasks specially designed to be more valid and reliable than the previous neuropsychological tools by assessing the contribution of episodic and semantic memory systems to autobiographical performance viaexperimental paradigms (remember/know). This review shows that the Ribot’s law is not confirmed in aging by contrast with Alzheimer’s disease. Indeed, in older subjects, the performances on episodic autobiographical memory tests diminish with time interval, with a clear recency effect. Moreover, the episodic, but not the semantic, component of autobiographical memory is significantly altered in aging.