Specific, personally meaningful cues can benefit episodic prospection in medial temporal lobe amnesia

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Abstract

Objectives.

To determine whether severity of episodic prospection impairment in medial temporal lobe (MTL) amnesia is reduced by the types of cues that are used to elicit personal future episodes and, if so, whether episodic memory impairment is similarly affected.

Design.

Multiple case study of five individuals with MTL amnesia and healthy control participants.

Methods.

Participants were administered two tests of episodic prospection: A commonly used Galton–Crovitz task that uses generic cues (e.g., lemon) and a novel task that includes specific, personally meaningful cues referring to planned or plausible future events (e.g., granddaughter's recital). Narratives were scored for episodic detail using the Autobiographical Interview protocol (Levine et al., 2002), which distinguishes between internal (episodic) details and external (non-episodic) details.

Results.

Results showed that specific, personally meaningful cues led to an appreciable reduction of episodic memory and prospection impairment in three of the amnesic cases tested. Clinical benefit from more structured, self-related cues may depend on factors such as extent of MTL damage or general severity of episodic memory and prospection impairment, highlighting the importance of methodological approaches to neuropsychological research that treat each case on an individual basis.

Conclusions.

In cases of mild–moderate amnesia, specific, personal cues afford more detailed episodic remembering and prospective imagining than individual cue words.

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