The Neurobiology of Reduced Autobiographical Memory Specificity

Tom J. Barry, Connie P.Y. Chiu, Filip Raes, Jorge Ricarte, Hakwan Lau

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

39 Citations (SciVal)


There has been a recent growth in investigations into the neural mechanisms underlying the problems recalling specific autobiographical events that are a core feature of emotional disorders. In this review we provide the first synthesis of this literature, taking into account brain as well as cognitive mechanisms. We suggest that these problems are driven by idiosyncratic activation in areas of the brain associated with assigning salience and self-relevance to emotional memories. Other areas associated with inhibiting distraction and constructing vivid memory representations are also important. Each of these mechanisms may work independently or in concert with one another. Importantly, this interaction between mechanisms may differ between diagnostic and demographic groups such that similar problems in specificity may be characterised by different mechanisms. Given this challenge, neuroimaging may prove useful in identifying patient-specific biomarkers for interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1038-1049
Number of pages12
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Ltd


  • autobiographical memory
  • depression
  • emotional disorder
  • overgeneral
  • posttraumatic stress disorder
  • specificity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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