Degenerative Amnesia for Past Public Events: An Attempt to Measure Storage and Retrieval

Federica Lucchelli, Maria Cristina Saetti, Hans Spinnler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A still unsettled issue of amnesia concerns the differential contributions to recall impairment of the underlying retrieval and storage abilities. The aim of the present study was to disentangle and to measure such roles in the recall of past public events comparing patients with degenerative amnesia and healthy elderly. The experiment included 44 healthy elderly and two groups of participants with degenerative amnesia, namely 17 patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment and 22 mild Alzheimer's disease patients. Recall of famous past public events was assessed by means of a 52-item questionnaire standardized for the Italian population. A latent-variable approach was adopted in order to infer the contributions of retrieval and storage to the recall performances. A stochastic model was adopted, which in a previous study of recall of recent and remote past public events in healthy elderly succeeded to prove reduced retrieval efficiency for more recent events. The results of the present study suggest that retrieval is more fragile than storage in all three experimental groups. A storage impairment turned out only in the Alzheimer's disease group, where it was limited to more recent memories. In view of the combined roles of the hippocampus and cortex in past memory processing, our results are consistent with the hypothesis that the degenerative process primarily impairs the strategic memory search. However, the sufficiency criterion of the adopted Markov model fell short of significance. Due to this statistical shortcoming, our conclusions, though consistent with the clinical predictions, are to be taken as provisional.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1083-1094
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2018


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • latent variables
  • Markov chains
  • mild cognitive impairment
  • past public events
  • retrograde memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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