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Episodic Future Thinking Notes

Psychology Notes > Neuropsychology of Memory Notes

This is an extract of our Episodic Future Thinking document, which we sell as part of our Neuropsychology of Memory Notes collection written by the top tier of Durham University students.

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Episodic Future Thinking (1) The Mental Time Travel (MTT) Hypothesis (Suddendorf & Corballis, 2007) Comprises the mental reconstruction of personal events from the past (EM) + the mental construction of possible events in the future
- Those events are experiences as if they were occurring now
? Ability depends on the sophistication of other cognitive capacities - selfawareness, meta-representation , mental attribution + the ability to dissociate imagined mental states from one's own present mental state
? These abilities are also important aspects of ToM
? In view of the generative aspect of EM - seems reasonable to suppose that basically the same mechanisms might be involved in imaging the future as in constructing the past
? Time travel into the future is in a sense an extrapolation from time travel in the past - similarly involving the ability to escape the influence of the current mental state
? Thinking about one's personal future (episodic future thinking) may be the real driver behind episodic memoryWhat might episodic memory and imaging the personal future have in common?Retrieval of relevant information Personal perspective Sense of presence /self (autonoetic consciousness) Narrative structure?
Spatial + contextual structure/detail ?

If MTT is a single cognitive process: a) Patients with impairments travelling back in time (amnesia) should also show impairments projecting forwards in tie b) Traveling backwards + forwards in time should show overlapping patterns of brain activation in intact participants Do amnesic patients have problems with imaging future events ??

Buckner & Carroll (2006)
- Makes reference to an excerpt of conversation between Tulving and amnesic patient KC
- Asked "What will you be doing tomorrow?" - says he doesn't know +
describes his state of mind when thinking about tomorrow as "blank" Steinvorth & Corkin
- HM - does not make predictions about future autobiographical events
- when pushed to make a prediction - either responded with an event from the distant past or doesn't respond at all

Not all future thinking is impaired:
? Only those involving a personal perspective - future projections involving the self - sense of presence/self

Non-personal future events ? Klein, Loftus & Kihlstrom (2002) - patient DB
- Severely amnesic following anoxic episode
- Could not coherently answer questions about his personal future BUT retained semantic knowledge of the future - asked to talk about an issue which faced the environment - said weather rainfall patterns would change due to industrial pollution
? Lacks the ability to consider his personal past + future but can reason about a non-personal semantic futureDo all people with impaired episodic memory have impaired future thinking Addis et al (2009)??Tested the ability of 16 Alzheimer's patients (mild - early stages) and 16 age matched controls to generate past + future autobiographical events using an adapted version of the Autobiograpical interview Event transcriptions were segmented into distinct details classified as either internal (episodic) or external (non-episodic) AD patients exhibited deficits in both remembering past events +
stimulating future events - generating fewer internal + external episodic details than health older controls Patients were much worse at producing internal details of events for both past + future compared to controls The internal + external detail scores were strongly correlated across past
+ future events - providing further evidence of the close linkages between the mental representations of past and future.

Hassabis et al (2007) o

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Tested whether a group of amnesic patients with primary damage bilateraly to the hippocampus could construct new imagined experiences in response to short verbal cues - outline common place scenarios - v IQ
+ aged matched controls Cue => "imagine you are lying on a white sandy beach in a beautiful tropical bay" Participant instructed to vividly imagine the situation from the cue +
describe it in as much (multimodal) detail as possible - explicitly told not to recount an actual memory Content of descriptions divided into four categories :spatial reference, entity presence, sensory description + thought/emotion/action RESULTS
- Patient sig impaired on the task ? systematic study formally documents hippocampal amnesic patients difficulty in richly imagining new experiences
- Findings offer some insight into the mechanism which could underpin the deficits ? patients imagined experiences were strikingly deficient in spatial coherence - resulting in their constructions being fragmented
+ lacking richness
- Suggested that the hippo makes a critical contribution to the creation of new experiences providing the spatial context of the environmental

??setting into which the details are bound ? the absence of this function mediated by the hippo - fundamentally affects the ability to reexperience or reconstruct past events According to the traditional view of memory - role of the hippo in EM is time-limited, with these memories consolidated to the neocortex over time Within this framework it is held that the neocortex contains generalised representation for spatial contextual + non spatial memories - supports memory independently of any contribution from the hipp/MTL According to this view - successful imagination of experiences would be expected to occur in the presence of hippo lesions - as the co-ordination of activity in multiple neocortical areas Demonstration that patients with hippo lesions are impaired at generating new imagined exp's poses a challenge to the traditional model
- However it could be argued that the creation of imagined exp's relies on the retrieval of recent episodic memories - process severely disrupted in hippo amnesics ? - seems unlikely

Neuroimaging Botzung et al (2008):????

fMRI used in healthy subjects to investigate the existence of common neural structures supporting re-experiencing the past + pre-experiencing the future presented with cue cards - try to generate a memory - either related to a prev generated memory of a future plan Asked to mentally re-experience their recollections OR pre-experience their future projections Past and future event evocation appears to involve highly similar patterns of activation
- Medial prefrontal cortex , posterior regions + the MTL Frontal activations are likely to be related to decision making Posterior activations are likely to be visual activations relating to imagery MTL activations may related to MTT Results seem to support the view of a common neurocognitive system which would allow humans to mentally travel through time - idea that reexperiencing + pre-experiencing past + future events may rely on similar cognitive capacities

Evidence from Developmental Amnesia ? Maguire et al (2010)One patient PO1 - found to be unimpaired on tasks requiring imagination of fictitious + future experiences - despite dense amnesia + 50% volume loss in both hippocampi

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