A review of autobiographical memory studies on patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders

Yujia Zhang, Sara K. Kuhn, Laura Jobson, Shamsul Haque

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5 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Patients suffering from schizophrenia spectrum disorders demonstrate various cognitive deficiencies, the most pertinent one being impairment in autobiographical memory. This paper reviews quantitative research investigating deficits in the content, and characteristics, of autobiographical memories in individuals with schizophrenia. It also examines if the method used to activate autobiographical memories influenced the results and which theoretical accounts were proposed to explain the defective recall of autobiographical memories in patients with schizophrenia. Methods: PsycINFO, Web of Science, and PubMed databases were searched for articles published between January 1998 and December 2018. Fifty-seven studies met the inclusion criteria. All studies implemented the generative retrieval strategy by inducing memories through cue words or pictures, the life-stage method, or open-ended retrieval method. The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) Statement guidelines were followed for this review. Results: Most studies reported that patients with schizophrenia retrieve less specific autobiographical memories when compared to a healthy control group, while only three studies indicated that both groups performed similarly on memory specificity. Patients with schizophrenia also exhibited earlier reminiscence bumps than those for healthy controls. The relationship between comorbid depression and autobiographical memory specificity appeared to be independent because patients' memory specificity improved through intervention, but their level of depression remained unchanged. The U-shaped retrieval pattern for memory specificity was not consistent. Both the connection between the history of attempted suicide and autobiographical memory specificity, and the relationship between psychotic symptoms and autobiographical memory specificity, remain inconclusive. Patients' memory specificity and coherence improved through cognitive training. Conclusions: The overgeneral recall of autobiographical memory by patients with schizophrenia could be attributed to working memory, the disturbing concept of self, and the cuing method implemented. The earlier reminiscence bump for patients with schizophrenia may be explained by the premature closure of the identity formation process due to the emergence of psychotic symptoms during early adulthood. Protocol developed for this review was registered in PROSPERO (registration no: CRD42017062643).

Original languageEnglish
Article number361
Number of pages36
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2019


  • Autobiographical memory
  • CaR-FA-X model
  • Cuing methods
  • Schizophrenia
  • Self-memory system

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