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© Rotman Research Institute

     Why is it that some people have richly detailed recollection of past experiences (episodic memory), while others tend to remember just the facts without details (semantic memory)?

A research team from the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences has shown for the first time that these different ways of experiencing the past are associated with distinct brain connectivity patterns that may be inherent to the individual and suggest a life-long ‘memory trait’.

The study was recently published online in the journal Cortex.

“For decades, nearly all research on memory and brain function has treated people as the same, averaging across individuals,” said lead investigator Dr. Signy Sheldon, now an assistant professor of Psychology at McGill University.

“Yet as we know from experience and from comparing our recollection to others, peoples’ memory traits vary. Our study shows that these memory traits correspond to stable differences in brain function, even when we are not asking people to perform memory tasks while in the scanner.”

In the study, 66 healthy young adults (average age 24) completed an online questionnaire — the Survey of Autobiographical Memory (SAM) – describing how well they remember autobiographical events and facts. Their responses fell between the extremes seen in people with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM) or Severely Deficient Autobiographical Memory (SDAM) recently described by memory researchers. This allowed researchers to study normal variation in autobiographical memory.

After filling out the online survey, the 66 participants had their brains scanned at Baycrest with resting state functional…

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