Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
This study sought to explore the neural correlates that underlie autobiographical, episodic, and semantic memory. Autobiographical memory was defined as the conscious recollection of personally relevant events, episodic memory as the recall of stimuli presented in the laboratory, and semantic memory as the retrieval of factual information and general knowledge about the world. Our objective was to delineate common neural activations, reflecting a functional overlap, and unique neural activations, reflecting functional dissociation of these memory processes. We conducted an event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging study in which we utilized the same pictorial stimuli but manipulated retrieval demands to extract autobiographical, episodic, or semantic memories. The results show a functional overlap of the three types of memory retrieval in the inferior frontal gyrus, the middle frontal gyrus, the caudate nucleus, the thalamus, and the lingual gyrus. All memory conditions yielded activation of the left medial-temporal lobe; however, we found a functional dissociation within this region. The anterior and superior areas were active in episodic and semantic retrieval, whereas more posterior and inferior areas were active in autobiographical retrieval. Unique activations for each memory type were also delineated, including medial frontal increases for autobiographical, right middle frontal increases for episodic, and right inferior temporal increases for semantic retrieval. These findings suggest a common neural network underlying all declarative memory retrieval, as well as unique neural contributions reflecting the specific properties of retrieved memories.