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Acta Psychol (Amst). 2008 Mar;127(3):532-41. Epub 2007 Dec 19.

The role of the noradrenergic system in emotional memory.

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University of Amsterdam, Department of Clinical Psychology and Cognitive Science Center, Roetersstraat 15, 1018 WB Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


This contribution is an overview on the role of noradrenaline as neurotransmitter and stress hormone in emotional memory processing. The role of stress hormones in memory formation of healthy subjects can bear significance for the derailment of memory processes, for example, in post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Increased noradrenaline levels lead to better memory performance, whereas blocking the noradrenergic receptors with a betablocker attenuates this enhanced memory for emotional information. Noradrenaline appears to interact with cortisol in emotional memory processes, varying from encoding to consolidation and retrieval. Imaging studies show that confronting human subjects with emotional stimuli results in increased amygdala activation and that this activation is noradrenergic dependent. The role of noradrenaline in other brain areas, such as hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, is shortly summarized. Finally, the pros and cons of a therapeutic application of betablockers in the (secondary) prevention of PTSD will be discussed.

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