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Neuropsychologia. 2001;39(6):556-73.

Differential amygdala activation during emotional decision and recognition memory tasks using unpleasant words: an fMRI study.

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Department of Neurology, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York, NY, USA.


This study used fMRI to examine the response of the amygdala in the evaluation and short-term recognition memory of unpleasant vs. neutral words in nine right-handed healthy adult women. To establish specificity of the amygdala response, we examined the fMRI BOLD signal in one control region (visual cortex). Alternating blocks of unpleasant and neutral trials were presented. During the emotional decision task, subjects viewed sets of three unpleasant or three neutral words while selecting the most unpleasant or neutral word, respectively. During the memory task, subjects identified words that were presented during the emotional decision task (0.50 probability). Images were detrended, filtered, and coregistered to standard brain coordinates. The Talairach coordinates for the center of the amygdala were chosen before analysis. The BOLD signal at this location in the right hemisphere revealed a greater amplitude signal for the unpleasant relative to the neutral words during the emotional decision but not the memory task, confirmed by Time Course x Word Condition ANOVAs. These results are consistent with the memory modulatory view of amygdala function, which suggests that the amygdala facilitates long-term, but not short-term, memory consolidation of emotionally significant material. The control area showed only an effect for Time Course for both the emotional decision and memory tasks, indicating the specificity of the amygdala response to the evaluation of unpleasant words. Moreover, the right-sided amygdala activation during the unpleasant word condition was strongly correlated with the BOLD response in the occipital cortex. These findings corroborate those by other researchers that the amygdala can modulate early processing of visual information in the occipital cortex. Finally, an increase in subject's state anxiety (evaluated by questionnaire) while in the scanner correlated with amygdala activation under some conditions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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