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Hum Brain Mapp. 2012 Oct;33(10):2428-40. doi: 10.1002/hbm.21366. Epub 2011 Aug 5.

Look at me, I'll remember you: the perception of self-relevant social cues enhances memory and right hippocampal activity.

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Département d'Étude Cognitive, Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience, INSERM U960, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France.


Being looked at by a person enhances the subsequent memorability of her/his identity. Here, we tested the specificity of this effect and its underlying brain processes. We manipulated three social cues displayed by an agent: Gaze Direction (Direct/Averted), Emotional Expression (Anger/Neutral), and Pointing gesture (Presence/Absence). Our behavioral experiment showed that direct as compared with averted gaze perception enhanced subsequent retrieval of face identity. Similar effect of enhanced retrieval was found when pointing finger was absent as compared with present but not for anger as compared with neutral expression. The fMRI results revealed amygdala activity for both Anger and Direct gaze conditions, suggesting emotional arousal. Yet, the right hippocampus, known to play a role in self-relevant memory processes, was only revealed during direct gaze perception. Further investigations suggest that right hippocampal activity was maximal for the most self-relevant social event (i.e. actor expressing anger and pointing toward the participant with direct gaze). Altogether, our results suggest that the perception of self-relevant social cues such as direct gaze automatically prompts "self-relevant memory" processes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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