Neurobiology of reconstructed memory

W. Jake Jacobs, Lynn Nadel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


The authors present evidence that normal autobiographical memories and "recovered" autobiographical memories of long-forgotten traumatic events are produced by the same mechanisms. The basic process involves the parallel storage of information in a set of independent modules, the selective retrieval and reaggregation of this dispersed information within an appropriate spatiotemporal context, and the organization of this aggregate by a narrative. The result is a seamless blend of retrieved information (that which is recalled) and knowledge (that which is inferred) experienced as an autobiographical memory. The critical difference between normal and recovered memories, by this account, is the impact of trauma on the storage process: The physiological consequences of trauma can include a disabling of the neural module responsible for encoding the appropriate spatiotemporal context. Recovered memory involves retrieval of memory fragments, confabulation (innocent or not) driven by inference, and the fitting of a context to this incomplete aggregate. This too is experienced as an autobiographical memory. The implications of this view for estimating the veridicality of recovered memories are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1110-1134
Number of pages25
JournalPsychology, Public Policy, and Law
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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