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Aiding Episodic Autobiographical Memory

Khachatoorian, Nareg (2020). Aiding Episodic Autobiographical Memory. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


The aim of this PhD research is to examine different strategies for enhancing the recollection of autobiographical memories and to explore the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying the retrieval of such memories. Case studies have shown that the sequential review of wearable camera photos leads to intense recollections of memories, which tend to be more vivid and detailed relative to memories recalled after reading diary entries. This process is also thought to have a long-term effect, enhancing the future recollection of memories. While the use of cameras as a means to aid the recollection of memories seems promising, this process has not been examined in a controlled environment. In addition, the long-term effectiveness of wearable camera photo review relative to other memory aids is not known. For example, testing participants memories of learnt material improves future memory performance more relative to restudying the material, an effect known as retrieval practice. While this effect has been studied in educational and laboratory settings, its effectiveness for real-world episodic autobiographical memories has not been examined and its effectiveness relative to long-term effects of wearable camera photo review is not known. The first study in this thesis examined the sequential presentation of wearable camera photos in healthy individuals and the second study examined in CR, a person with memory impairment. In the third study, the long-term effect of wearable camera photo review was contrasted with the effect of retrieval practice in healthy individuals. Finally, in the fourth study, the neurophysiological mechanism underlying the retrieval of these memories was measured using the EEG during a recognition task. For this, both event-related potentials and time-frequency analysis were employed. The first two studies showed that the sequential presentation of wearable camera photos can be beneficial in aiding the recognition of memories when the overall memory performance is good – for healthy individuals when tested with one-week retention interval and CR when tested with a three hours retention interval. However, the sequential presentation had a negative impact when the overall memory was poor – for CR when tested with one-week retention interval. This highlights the potential negative impact of using wearable camera photos as means to recollect autobiographical memories in people with memory impairment. The third study showed that as a means to enhance future memory performance, retrieval practice is more beneficial than reviewing wearable camera photos when memories are tested with a free recall task, and the opposite pattern is present when memories are tested with a recognition task. Finally, the fourth study emphasised the role of sensory information in neurophysiological signatures for the recognition of autobiographical memories. Overall, the findings provide valuable information in creating strategies for improving episodic autobiographical memory.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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