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Reviews in the Neurosciences

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Volume 29, Issue 8


When your face describes your memories: facial expressions during retrieval of autobiographical memories

Mohamad El Haj
  • Corresponding author
  • University of Lille, CNRS, CHU Lille, UMR 9193 – SCALab – Sciences Cognitives et Sciences Affectives, F-59000 Lille, France; Département de Psychologie, Domaine du Pont de Bois, B.P. 60149, F-59653 Villeneuve d’Ascq, France
  • Unité de Gériatrie, Centre Hospitalier de Tourcoing, F-59000 Tourcoing, France
  • Institut Universitaire de France, Paris, France
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Mohamed Daoudi
  • IMT Lille Douai, University of Lille, CNRS, UMR 9189 Centre de Recherche en Informatique Signal et Automatique de Lille (CRIStAL), F-59000 Lille, France
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Karim Gallouj / Ahmed A. Moustafa
  • School of Social Sciences and Psychology and Marcs Institute for Brain and Behaviour, Western Sydney University, Sydney 2751, New South Wales, Australia
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Jean-Louis Nandrino
  • University of Lille, CNRS, CHU Lille, UMR 9193 – SCALab – Sciences Cognitives et Sciences Affectives, F-59000 Lille, France
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2018-05-11 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/revneuro-2018-0001


Thanks to the current advances in the software analysis of facial expressions, there is a burgeoning interest in understanding emotional facial expressions observed during the retrieval of autobiographical memories. This review describes the research on facial expressions during autobiographical retrieval showing distinct emotional facial expressions according to the characteristics of retrieved memoires. More specifically, this research demonstrates that the retrieval of emotional memories can trigger corresponding emotional facial expressions (e.g. positive memories may trigger positive facial expressions). Also, this study demonstrates the variations of facial expressions according to specificity, self-relevance, or past versus future direction of memory construction. Besides linking research on facial expressions during autobiographical retrieval to cognitive and affective characteristics of autobiographical memory in general, this review positions this research within the broader context research on the physiologic characteristics of autobiographical retrieval. We also provide several perspectives for clinical studies to investigate facial expressions in populations with deficits in autobiographical memory (e.g. whether autobiographical overgenerality in neurologic and psychiatric populations may trigger few emotional facial expressions). In sum, this review paper demonstrates how the evaluation of facial expressions during autobiographical retrieval may help understand the functioning and dysfunctioning of autobiographical memory.

Keywords: autobiographical memory; emotion; emotional facial expressions; facial expressions; facial expression analysis


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About the article

Received: 2018-01-11

Accepted: 2018-02-13

Published Online: 2018-05-11

Published in Print: 2018-11-27

Citation Information: Reviews in the Neurosciences, Volume 29, Issue 8, Pages 861–872, ISSN (Online) 2191-0200, ISSN (Print) 0334-1763, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/revneuro-2018-0001.

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