Break-downs in Autobiographical Memory - MINDLab


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Break-downs in Autobiographical Memory


The aim is to study dysfunctional effects of Autobiographical Memory in clinical disorders. We study AM when it breaks down and/or becomes dysfunctional in clinical disorders to provide an understanding of such dysfunctional effects based on basic science. Our framework is especially relevant for this endeavor, because involuntary autobiographical memories (often called intrusive memories) have been regarded as central to a number of disorders, such as PTSD, phobia and depression. We examine the validity of our overall tenet that basic mechanisms of memory can account for dysfunctional involuntary mental time travel in such disorders. We focus on PTSD for which we have presented a radically new theoretical model (Rubin, Berntsen & Johansen, in press). A key question is to identify predisposing memory factors for the development of the disorder. We predict that a general tendency to show high levels of emotional reaction to (negative) emotional autobiographical memories and a general tendency to use (negative) emotional autobiographical events as reference points for self-understanding and future expectations are predisposing factors for PTSD (Berntsen & Rubin, 2006). Both memory styles are predicted to be correlated with neuroticism and overall affect intensity, considered as personality related traits. We examine these predictions through a prospective study with Danish soldiers before, during and after military service in Afghanistan. We follow up with retrospective studies in selected trauma populations. This research is conducted in collaboration with Institute of Military Psychology in Denmark as well as Joseph Fitzgerald at Wayne State University, and David C. Rubin, Duke University, USA. 

Further, we examine AM among people suffering from cognitive deficits regarding executive functions (e.g. prefrontal brain damage). We expect cognitive deficits regarding executive functions to have similar effects on future and past mental time travel. Because the involuntary mode relies little on executive functions, we expect this mode to be more intact than the voluntary mode for both future and past mental time travel.


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Berntsen, Dorthe   8716 5868
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Revised 7-5-2012