Journal Article

Using memories to support the self in Alzheimer's disease


The impact of memory loss on the self in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is poorly understood. Previous research is mixed on whether episodic or semantic memories are most important for supporting identity. The present study examined autobiographical memories cued by self-images (e.g. I am a father) and non-self-related cues in 16 AD patients and 29 healthy older adults. The AD group generated fewer self-images and memories compared to controls, but demonstrated similar temporal organization of self-cued memories. In both groups, self-images were supported by semantic memories that were temporally clustered around times of identity-formation. These self-supporting memories are proposed to form a scaffold to support the self and may persist the longest in AD, as opposed to memories from early adulthood per se. In both AD and control groups, self-images cued more semantic memories than non-self-relevant cues, further suggesting that semantic autobiographical memories play a fundamental role in supporting the self. These findings demonstrate that the self remains largely intact in AD, in spite of severe episodic memory deficits and global cognitive decline. In later stages of the disease, these self-supporting memories could provide effective tools for reminiscence therapy.

Attached files


Rathbone, Clare J.
Ellis, Judi A.
Ahmed, Samrah
Moulin, Chris J.A.
Ernst, Alexandra
Butler, Chris R.

Oxford Brookes departments

Department of Sport, Health Sciences and Social Work


Year of publication: 2019
Date of RADAR deposit: 2019-09-23

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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