Episodic autobiographical memory refers to the ability to recollect and re-experience events of our own life that occurred at a particular time and place. It allows for the development and maintenance of our unique personal identity and self-awareness, namely autonoetic consciousness. An integrated and comprehensive model of how and where episodic autobiographical memories are stored in the human brain is still lacking. The core hypothesis of ATENA is that previous experiences are spatially organized into a cognitive map and that temporal coding indexes the content of such a map. Also, a dynamic re-mapping should occur in the brain, as time passes after the event. Recent theoretical and methodological advances in cognitive neuroscience make the study of episodic autobiographical memory timely. ATENA will integrate cognitive, neuropsychological and neuroimaging approaches to demonstrate that retrieving autobiographical memories crucially relies on spatial and temporal processing. In brief, advanced information-based approaches to neuroimaging (i.e. representation similarity analysis and decoding) will be adopted to directly test the neural representation underlying episodic autobiographical memory and its possible dynamic re-mapping across time. A lifespan developmental study will be designed to test the ontogeny of place and time contribution to episodic autobiographical memory. Finally, the contribution of the alterations in time and place coding in different developmental and acquired neuropsychological conditions characterized by a deficit in episodic autobiographical memory will be tested. Besides a novel integrated neuroscientific account of episodic autobiographical memory and its development across the lifespan, ATENA will open new areas of investigation in the field of the human mind and its complexity and will inspire new approaches for neuropsychological rehabilitation of memory deficits.
- HORIZON.1.1 - European Research Council (ERC) Main Programme