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Extra info for Not in Our Genes: Biology, Ideology and Human Nature (Penguin Press Science)
It is important to characterize patients in this way in order to address the kinds of questions now being pursued in studies of memory and the brain. Functional MRI (fMRI) of healthy individuals who are engaged in learning and remembering allows one to ask what brain areas are associated with these memory processes. The same tasks that are administered to amnesic patients can also be administered to healthy individuals while their brain activation is measured. fMRI reveals activation during these tasks of learning and remembering in the same structures that, when damaged, cause amnesia.
This type of memory loss is referred to as retrograde amnesia. Retrograde amnesia is usually temporally graded. That is, information acquired in the distant past (remote memory) is spared relative to more recent memory (Ribot, 1881). The extent of retrograde amnesia can be relatively short and encompass only 1 or 2 years, or it can be more extensive and cover decades. Even then, memories for the facts and events of childhood and adolescence are typically intact. Indeed, severely amnesic patients can produce detailed autobiographical narratives of their early life.
Am. 225: 82–90. Baddeley A (2000) The episodic buffer: A new component of working memory? Trends Cogn. Sci. 4: 417–423. Baddeley A (2001) Is working memory still working? Am. Psychol. 56: 849–864. Bartlett FC (1932) Remembering: A Study in Experimental and Social Psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Berntsen D (1996) Involuntary autobiographical memories. Appl. Cogn. Psychol. 10: 435–454. Berntsen D and Rubin DC (2002) Emotionally charged autobiographical memories across the life span: The recall of happy, sad, traumatic, and involuntary memories.