Relationships between autobiographical memory, identity and awareness in early-stage dementia
This large-scale research project is presented in two parts. The first part constitutes a review of the literaturer elatingt o autobiographicaml emorya nd senseo f self in earlystage dementia. It provides a brief overview of the theories that indicate how autobiographicaml emorya nd senseo f self might be related,f ollowed by a review of the changes observed in these constructs in association with early-stage dementia. Despite some empirical support; a limited amount of research has been conducted with regard to the relationship between autobiographical memory and aspects of self. This may reflect a number of conceptual and methodological difficulties. Also, changes in identity are often inferred by caregivers, based on changes in behaviour and abilities; the view of the person with dementia is rarely sought. Tbus, identity change is usually considered in social rather than cognitive terms. Despite this, the hypothesised relationship between autobiographical memory and sense of self is utilised in psychosocial interventions, such as reminiscence. The second part of this project examines the relationships between autobiographical memory,i dentity, and awarenessw ithin a sampleo f peoplew ith diagnoseso f earlystage dementia. The 30 participants, recruited via a local memory clinic, were each administeredth e AutobiographicalM emory Interview,T ennesseeS elf-ConceptS cale, Second Edition, and Memory Awareness Rating Scale. Analysis using partial correlations, controlling for general cognitive ability, revealed that: greater recall of early adulthoodp ersonals emantica nd incident memoriesw as associatedw ith more definite senseo f identity, greaterr ecall of mid-life incidentsw as associatedw ith less definite identity but greater awareness, and greater awareness was associated with less definite identity. It is suggested that memories from the mid-life period may contain initial instances of awareness of changes in memory functioning, with greater awareness of change being associated with less certain identity, as knowledge about self is updated.