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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A model of free recall for multiple encounters of semantically related stimuli with an application to understanding cognitive impairment


The free recall of triadic comparisons, a task used in clinical settings, presents a unique analysis challenge for many memory models, because learning occurs incidentally and items are presented multiple times in triads. To account for this design, we extend the SIMPLE (Brown et al., 2007) model of memory, which assumes to-be-remembered items are stored as separate logarithmically-compressed temporal traces. The ability to retrieve these traces depends on the acuity of memory probes and the semantic similarity between the items represented by the traces. We applied this model to a real-world clinical data set including healthy controls, people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and people with Alzheimer’s dementia. We found that people with MCI had lower acuity than healthy controls, but both groups placed roughly equal weight on temporal and semantic cues. People with dementia had both lower acuity and placed much more weight on temporal cues than semantic cues.

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