The Autobiographical Memory Interview (AMI) provides a useful research tool for investigating retrograde amnesia. Patients who may be very similar on standard memory tests can differ markedly in their autobiographical memory performance.
The test assesses a subject’s recall of facts from their own past life and also assesses a subject’s recall of specific incidents in their earlier life.
Both types of memory are assessed across three broad time bands: childhood, early adult life, and recent facts/incidents. It thus allows a measurement of the pattern of autobiographical memory deficit, and the detection of any temporal gradient in retrograde amnesia.
AMI provides an assessment of a subject’s personal remote memory, in contrast to existing tests which probe memory for public events and personalities.
As such, the test is not dependent on the level of the patient’s habitual interest in current affairs and news events. Furthermore, it does not require regular updating in the same way as remote memory tests based on public events.
AMI has a high interrater reliability and has been validated in four ways.
Retrograde amnesia often leads to an impairment of autobiographical memory, the capacity to recollect the facts and incidents of one’s earlier life. Although not measured by standard memory tests, it is valuable to assess autobiographical memory for at least three reasons:
- To understand the nature of any memory deficit observed
- To allow more adequate counselling
- To provide an individual focus for subsequent treatment, such as reminiscence therapy.
Many important clinical disorders give rise to impairment in autobiographical memory. These include the organic amnesic syndrome, dementing disorders, and possibly various psychiatric disorders, including depression and schizophrenia.