My memories are important to me: changes in autobiographical memory in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Sharpley Hsieh*, Muireann Irish, David Foxe, Jashelle Caga, Emma Devenney, Rebekah Ahmed, John R. Hodges, Olivier Piguet, Matthew C. Kiernan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: The loss of autobiographical memories (ABM) is a pervasive feature of neurodegenerative diseases. Studies to date have not investigated ABM retrieval in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a multisystem disorder that may be associated with cognitive dysfunction and dementia. 

Method: The integrity of autobiographical memory was evaluated in 22 ALS patients compared with 28 age-matched controls using the Autobiographical Interview (AI), a semistructured interview assessing autobiographical events from discrete time periods across the life span. 

Results: ABM retrieval was preserved in ALS and remained rich in detail for personal events in recent (last 12-months) and remote (teenage years) time epochs. ABM retrieval was positively correlated with months since ALS symptom onset, with a greater number of contextual details being recalled as ALS progressed. A shift in how ABMs were perceived in ALS patients became apparent, with more recurrent reflection of recent life, which was also weighted with greater personal importance. 

Conclusion: The preservation of ABM in ALS has clinical implications for the use of life review as a therapeutic tool in a multidisciplinary care setting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)920-930
Number of pages11
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Autobiographical memory
  • Phenomenology


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