Persistence of Emotional Memories Over Time

Role of Amygdala Connectivity in the Persistence of Emotional Memories Over Time: An Event-Related fMRI Investigation
Maureen Ritchey, Florin Dolcos and Roberto Cabeza
Cerebral Cortex, 2008

Background: According to the consolidation hypothesis, enhanced memory for emotional information reflects the modulatory effect of the amygdala on the medial temporal lobe (MTL) memory system during consolidation. Although there is evidence that amygdala--MTL connectivity enhances memory for emotional stimuli, it remains unclear whether this enhancement increases over time, as consolidation processes

Methods: They used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure encoding activity predicting memory for emotionally negative and neutral pictures after short (20-min) versus long (1-week) delays.

Results: Memory measures distinguished between vivid remembering (recollection) and feelings of knowing (familiarity). Consistent with the consolidation hypothesis, the persistence of recollection over time (long divided by short) was greater for emotional than neutral pictures. Activity in the amygdala predicted subsequent memory to a greater extent for emotional than neutral pictures. Although this advantage did not vary with delay, the contribution of amygdala--MTL connectivity to subsequent memory for emotional items increased over time. Moreover, both this increase in connectivity and amygdala activity itself were correlated with individual differences in recollection persistence for emotional but not neutral pictures.

Conclusion: These results suggest that the amygdala and its connectivity with the MTL are critical to sustaining emotional memories over time, consistent with the consolidation hypothesis.

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