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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Jul 23, 1996; 93(15): 8016–8021.
PMCID: PMC38867

Amygdala activity at encoding correlated with long-term, free recall of emotional information.

Abstract

Positron emission tomography of cerebral glucose metabolism in adult human subjects was used to investigate amygdaloid complex (AC) activity associated with the storage of long-term memory for emotionally arousing events. Subjects viewed two videos (one in each of two separate positron emission tomography sessions, separated by 3-7 days) consisting either of 12 emotionally arousing film clips ("E" film session) or of 12 relatively emotionally neutral film clips ("N" film session), and rated their emotional reaction to each film clip immediately after viewing it. Three weeks after the second session, memory for the videos was assessed in a free recall test. As expected, the subjects' average emotional reaction to the E films was higher than that for the N films. In addition, the subjects recalled significantly more E films than N films. Glucose metabolic rate of the right AC while viewing the E films was highly correlated with the number of E films recalled. AC activity was not significantly correlated with the number of N films recalled. The findings support the view derived from both animal and human investigations that the AC is selectively involved with the formation of enhanced long-term memory associated with emotionally arousing events.

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