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How brain gives special resonance to emotional memories

Specifically, these structures include the hippocampus and associated regions. Moreover, according to Dolcos, the analysis revealed a significant correlation between the strength of activity in the emotion- and memory-related brain regions.

"We found evidence that the interaction between the emotional and memory regions occurred more systematically and consistently during the formation of emotional memories than during the formation of neutral memories," Dolcos said. "More specifically, we found that the subjects showing greater successful encoding activity in the emotional region also had greater activity in the memory regions," said Dolcos.

Said Cabeza of the findings, "Other studies have focused on the general enhancing effects of emotion on memory, and the evidence for the modulation hypothesis was disparate and inconclusive. Thus, this is the first direct evidence for the modulation hypothesis in humans."

What's more, said Cabeza, "We also found indications that some regions within the medial temporal lobe may actually be more specialized for encoding neutral information. We don't know exactly what the processes involved are, or why these regions are engaged. But we speculate that the regions that were more activated for emotional stimuli are involved in semantic processing of the meaning of the images, whereas those that are more activated by neutral stimuli reflect perceptual processing."

Thus, said Cabeza, the findings not only establish the functional link between the emotional and memory areas; but also hint at differences within the memory areas that should be explored with further studies. As part of their research, the authors are now exploring the role of these brain regions during the retrieval of well-consolidated emotional memories.

While such studies are basic in nature, said Cabeza, better delineation of the role of the amygdala in emotional memory could aid understanding of post traumatic stress disorder
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Contact: Dennis Meredith
dennis.meredith@duke.edu
919-681-8054
Duke University
9-Jun-2004


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