Constructive Retrieval and Episodic Memory: Cognitive and Neural Evidence
Madore, Kevin Paul
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AbstractResearch over the past decade has indicated striking overlap in the cognitive and neural processes that support remembering the past and imagining the future. An experimental tool, the episodic specificity induction, was initially developed and examined to dissociate contributions of constructive episodic retrieval to these tasks in young and older adults from non-episodic contributions like narrative description and semantic memory. Having established the efficacy of the tool, the first two dissertation papers extend the induction approach to other cognitive tasks where little empirical attention has been given but where kernels of evidence suggest a role for constructive episodic retrieval. Social means-end problem solving, or generating steps from an identified problem to a solution, was affected by the specificity induction (Paper 1), as was divergent creative thinking, or generating new ideas by combining diverse types of information (Paper 2). Performance on non-episodic tasks (e.g., typical object associations, convergent word riddles) did not show induction-related differences. With the cognitive signature of the specificity induction identified, the neural signature of the tool was examined with fMRI. Following the specificity induction relative to a control, greater neural activity was observed in key brain regions previously linked to constructive episodic retrieval, including the anterior hippocampus and inferior parietal lobule, when participants imagined future events relative to comparing and defining words (Paper 3). The body of work strengthens our theoretical understanding of the boundary conditions of episodic memory, and could have functional implications for populations characterized by overgeneralized memory, such as aging, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder.
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