Retrograde Amnesia for Episodic and Semantic Memories in Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment

Maria Stefania De Simone, Lucia Fadda, Roberta Perri, Massimo De Tollis, Marta Aloisi, Carlo Caltagirone, Giovanni Augusto Carlesimo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Retrograde amnesia (RA), which includes loss of memory for past personal events (autobiographical RA) and for acquired knowledge (semantic RA), has been largely documented in patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI). However, previous studies have produced controversial results particularly concerning the temporal extent of memory impairment. Here we investigated whether, with the onset of hippocampal pathology, age of memory acquisition and retrieval frequency play different roles in modulating the progressive loss of semantic and episodic contents of retrograde memory respectively. For this purpose, aMCI patients and healthy controls were tested for the ability to recall semantic and autobiographical information related to famous public events as a function of both age of acquisition and retrieval frequency. In aMCI patients, we found that the impairment in recollecting past personal incidents was modulated by the combined action of memory age and retrieval frequency, because older and more frequently retrieved episodes are less susceptible to loss than more recent and less frequently retrieved ones. On the other side, we found that the loss of semantic information depended only on memory age, because the remoteness of the trace allows for better preservation of the memory. Our results provide evidence that the loss of the two components of retrograde memory is regulated by different mechanisms. This supports the view that diverse neural mechanisms are involved in episodic and semantic memory trace storage and retrieval, as postulated by the Multiple Trace Theory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-250
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Cortical reallocation theory
  • mild cognitive impairment
  • multiple trace theory
  • retrieval frequency
  • retrograde amnesia
  • temporal gradient

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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