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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Feb 15;102(7):2626-31. Epub 2005 Feb 9.

Remembering one year later: role of the amygdala and the medial temporal lobe memory system in retrieving emotional memories.

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  • 1Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0999, USA.


The memory-enhancing effect of emotion can be powerful and long-lasting. Most studies investigating the neural bases of this phenomenon have focused on encoding and early consolidation processes, and hence little is known regarding the contribution of retrieval processes, particularly after lengthy retention intervals. To address this issue, we used event-related functional MRI to measure neural activity during the retrieval of emotional and neutral pictures after a retention interval of 1 yr. Retrieval activity for emotional and neutral pictures was separately analyzed for successfully (hits) vs. unsuccessfully (misses) retrieved items and for responses based on recollection vs. familiarity. Recognition performance was better for emotional than for neutral pictures, and this effect was found only for recollection-based responses. Successful retrieval of emotional pictures elicited greater activity than successful retrieval of neutral pictures in the amygdala, entorhinal cortex, and hippocampus. Moreover, in the amygdala and hippocampus, the emotion effect was greater for recollection than for familiarity, whereas in the entorhinal cortex, it was similar for both forms of retrieval. These findings clarify the role of the amygdala and the medial temporal lobe memory regions in recollection and familiarity of emotional memory after lengthy retention intervals.

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