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A Journal on Psychiatry, Psychology and Psychopharmacology

Official Journal of the Italian Society of Social Psychiatry
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Minerva Psichiatrica 2008 September;49(3):235-46

language: Italian

Extreme trauma and memory: the autobiographical memory and its impairment following traumatic experiences

Germani M., Sambucini D., Mosca L.

Centro per la cura delle patologie post-traumatiche e da stress Azienda Ospedaliera San Giovanni-Addolorata Roma, Italia


In this article the authors face the new acquisitions on the relationship between traumatic experiences and memory. The most recent neuroscientific evidence has imparted a renewed impulse to the research on postraumatic pathologies, promoting the transition from a merely descriptive and phenomenological approach to a psychobiological, etiological approach. The most actual memory models are examined. Subsequently the study focuses on the autobiographical memory, which is the main system involved in post-traumatic memory impairment. Indeed, the autobiographical memory is strongly related with the personal sense of identity and is crucial as a person is reprocessing traumatic events and grief. Therefore, gaining insight on the complexity of autobiographical memory is fundamental for a better understanding of psychopathological mechanisms underpinning post-traumatic clinical features, such as dissociative disorders, depressive disorders, amnesia, depersonalization and derealization, flashbacks, etc. The relationship between traumatic experiences and neurobiological deterioration of peculiar brain areas involved in memory circuits is then examined and discussed, with a particular attention to relapses and clinical implications.

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