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Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2001 May;75(3):262-73.

Emotionally arousing pictures increase blood glucose levels and enhance recall.

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Department of Psychology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2E9, Canada.


Arousal enhances memory in human participants and this enhancing effect is likely due to the release of peripheral epinephrine. As epinephrine does not readily enter the brain, one way that peripheral epinephrine may enhance memory is by increasing circulating blood glucose levels. The present study investigated the possibility that emotionally arousing color pictures would improve memory and elevate blood glucose levels in human participants. Blood glucose levels were measured before, 15 min, and 30 min after male university students viewed 60 emotionally arousing or relatively neutral pictures. Participants viewed each picture for 6 s and then had 10 s to rate the arousal (emotional intensity) and valence (pleasantness) of each picture. A free-recall memory test was given 30 min after the last picture was viewed. Although the emotionally arousing and neutral picture sets were given comparable valence ratings, participants who viewed the emotionally arousing pictures rated the pictures as being more arousing, recalled more pictures, and had higher blood glucose levels after viewing the pictures than did participants who viewed the neutral pictures. These findings indicate that emotionally arousing pictures increase blood glucose levels and enhance memory, and that this effect is not due to differences in the degree of pleasantness of the stimuli. These findings support the possibility that increases in circulating blood glucose levels in response to emotional arousal may be part of the biological mechanism that allows emotional arousal to enhance memory.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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