John Libbey Eurotext

Gériatrie et Psychologie Neuropsychiatrie du Vieillissement


What about the mental time travel and age-related effects? Volume 10, issue 1, Mars 2012


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Laboratoire Mémoire et Cognition, Université Paris Descartes, Laboratoire de psychologie, Université de Franche Comté, Centre de psychiatrie et neuroscience (Inserm UMR S894), Université Paris Descartes

According to Tulving, episodic memory allows humans to travel mentally through subjective time into either the past or the future, this ability being at the origin of adaptation, organization and planning of future behavior. The main aim of this review is to present a state of art of episodic mental time travel and a lifespan perspective from children to elderly people. We examine the numerous similarities between remembering the past and envisioning the future which have been highlighted in cognitive, neuroimaging, and neuropsychological studies. We also present studies that have given evidence that remembering the past and imagining the future differ somewhat. We focus on demonstrating that hippocampal dysfunction is associated with disturbances in the recall of episodic autobiographical details in past memories, but also in the imagining of episodic detailed future events. More specifically, we discuss that the future seems to involve higher semantic processes mediated by the inferior frontal and lateral temporal gyri. We propose that the study of mental travel in personal time could be undertaken in line with the distinction between the memory of (episodic) experiences and (semantic) personal knowledge of one's life, which constitutes a major part of the self and constraints what we have been, what we are now, and what we might yet become.