Testing the episodic buffer: A pilot study of the psychoanalyst’s mind at work

Carlo Semenza, Debora Vivenzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The goal of this preliminary study was to understand whether the practice of psychoanalysis implies, in the long term, modifications in an individual’s structure and working of memory. The starting hypothesis was that psychoanalysts, due to specific aspects of their work, might differ in the memory component known as the "episodic buffer" from age- and education-matched controls. The episodic buffer is a recently theorized subcomponent of working (short-term) memory that binds together information coming from different sources, decodes them, and retains them in a multidimensional store that can be accessed through conscious awareness. Two measures were used: the Prose Memory Test subtest of the Wechsler Memory Scale-Revised (a traditional instrument to measure the capacity of the episodic buffer) and a new test specifically built for the present investigation, the Free Associations Sentences Test (FAST). The latter test was meant, besides measuring the capacity of the buffer, to investigate differences in the way it works. Psychoanalysts with a minimum of 10 years’ experience were compared with age-matched academic engineers. The results preliminarily show that the two groups did not differ as far as the capacity of the buffer is concerned. However, a difference was found in the organization and working of the buffer, whereby psychoanalysts seem to enjoy a higher degree of freedom.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-51
Number of pages7
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 22 2016


  • Episodic buffer
  • Episodic memory
  • Free associations sentences test
  • Memory for prose psychoanalysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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