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Preserved Self-Evaluation in Amnesia Supports Access to the Self through Introspective Computation

Abstract : Encounters with new people result in the extraction and storage in memory of both their external features, allowing us to recognize them later, and their internal traits, allowing us to better control our current interactions with them and anticipate our future ones. Just as we extract, encode, store, retrieve and update representations of others so, too, do we process representations of ourselves. These representations, which rely on declarative memory, may be altered or cease to be accessible in amnesia. Nonetheless, studies of amnesic patients have yielded the surprising observation that memory impairments alone do not prevent patients from making accurate trait self-judgments. In this review, we discuss prevailing explanations for preserved self-evaluation in amnesia and propose an alternative one, based on the concept of introspective computation. We also consider molecular and anatomical aspects of brain functioning that potentially support introspective computation. In this review, we discuss the literature on the representations people have of themselves, focusing on representations of self-personality traits. The latter are usually assessed using self-evaluation tasks, where participants are provided with a list of traits and asked to rate their self-descriptiveness. Self-evaluation on a set of traits involves retrieving personal information from semantic as well as episodic memory. Surprisingly, studies have shown that patients with semantic and/or episodic memory impairments are still able to provide accurate trait self-judgments. In this paper, we review these clinical cases, as well as possible explanations for preserved self-evaluation in amnesia provided in the literature. In a different section, we describe an alternative cognitive operation that we called introspective computation that may be used to judge the self-descriptiveness of personality traits. This mental operation, which does not rely on personal knowledge stored in long-term memory, may allow patients to provide accurate judgments of their personality traits despite their amnesia. We also discuss cognitive operations, including introspective computation, used in self-evaluation tasks, and their possible impairments in patients unaware of their personality changes.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, December 20, 2017 - 10:27:07 AM
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Aurelija Juskenaite, Peggy Quinette, Mickael Laisney, Marie-Loup Eustache, Béatrice Desgranges, et al.. Preserved Self-Evaluation in Amnesia Supports Access to the Self through Introspective Computation. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Frontiers, 2016, 10, pp.462. ⟨10.3389/fnhum.2016.00462⟩. ⟨inserm-01668576⟩



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