The new study, published in the current issue of the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (16:9), is the first brain imaging study of its kind to use diary-like memories collected by volunteers. It was led by The Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care.
Over a period of several months prior to the brain scan, volunteers documented dozens of unique events from their personal lives on a micro cassette recorder (episodic memories). At the same time, they recorded statements about personal facts of their lives (semantic memories). The researchers played these recordings back to the volunteers while their brains were being scanned with fMRI.
The results showed that the two types of autobiographical memory engaged different parts of the brain, even when the memories concerned the same contents. For example, the semantic thought "Every Friday afternoon I take the dog for a long walk" produced brain activity in one set of regions, whereas the episodic thought "One Friday afternoon my dog got away and I spent 45 minutes running after him" produced brain activity in a different set of regions.
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