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The cognitive neuroscience of constructive memory: remembering the past

Summary: The cognitive neuroscience of constructive
memory: remembering the past
and imagining the future
Daniel L. Schacter1,2,* and Donna Rose Addis1,2
Department of Psychology, Harvard University, 33 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
Athinoula A Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital,
149 Thirteenth Street, Suite 2301, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA
Episodic memory is widely conceived as a fundamentally constructive, rather than reproductive,
process that is prone to various kinds of errors and illusions. With a view towards examining the
functions served by a constructive episodic memory system, we consider recent neuropsychological
and neuroimaging studies indicating that some types of memory distortions reflect the operation of
adaptive processes. An important function of a constructive episodic memory is to allow individuals
to simulate or imagine future episodes, happenings and scenarios. Since the future is not an exact
repetition of the past, simulation of future episodes requires a system that can draw on the past in a
manner that flexibly extracts and recombines elements of previous experiences. Consistent with this
constructive episodic simulation hypothesis, we consider cognitive, neuropsychological and neuroima-
ging evidence showing that there is considerable overlap in the psychological and neural processes
involved in remembering the past and imagining the future.


Source: Addis, Donna Rose - Department of Psychology, University of Auckland
Schacter, Daniel - Department of Psychology, Harvard University


Collections: Biology and Medicine