Self-involvement modulates the effective connectivity of the autobiographical memory network

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Neuroimaging studies have revealed a consistent overlap between brain regions involved in self-processing and those implicated in autobiographical memory. However, no study has directly tested how the degree of self-involvement with an event being remembered alters the neural circuitry engaged during memory retrieval. The present study compared hockey players’ memories for game elements in which they were highly involved (e.g. scoring a goal) versus less involved (e.g. watching a goal from the bench). Specifically, we examined how the effective connectivity of a network of brain regions known to be involved in autobiographical memory retrieval varied based upon the players’ level of self-involvement with the remembered event. During remembering of high self-involvement events, connections between the left hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex were ‘in synchrony’ with connections between the medial prefrontal cortex and the right amygdala–hippocampal complex. By contrast, the hippocampal–prefrontal connection was ‘out-of-sync’ with the prefrontal–amygdala connection during retrieval of low self-involvement memories. This result is discussed in terms of two memory systems (one that is hippocampal-based and one that is amygdala–hippocampal-based) that may be involved to varying degrees depending upon the characteristics of a remembered event.

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