The emotional content of stimuli can enhance memory for those stimuli. This process may occur via an interaction with systems responsible for perception and memory or via the addition of distinct brain regions specialized for emotion which augment mnemonic processing. We performed an 15O PET study to identify neuroanatomical systems which encode visual stimuli with strong negative emotional valence compared to stimuli with neutral valence. Subjects also performed a recognition memory task for these same images, mixed with distracters of similar emotional valence. The experimental design permitted us to independently test effects of emotional content and recognition memory on regional activity. We found activity in the left amygdaloid complex associated with the encoding of emotional stimuli, although this activation appeared early in the scanning session and was not detectable during recognition memory. Visual recognition memory recruited the right middle frontal gyrus and the superior anterior cingulate cortex for both negative and neutral stimuli. An interaction occurred between emotional content and recognition in the lingual gyrus, where greater activation occurred during recognition of negative images compared to recognition of neutral images. Instead of distinct neuroanatomical systems for emotion augmenting memory, we found that emotionally salient stimuli appeared to enhance processing of early sensory input during visual recognition.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cognitive Neuroscience