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Sci Rep. 2018 Feb 28;8(1):3808. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-21857-1.

Cognitive control over memory - individual differences in memory performance for emotional and neutral material.

Author information

1
Laboratory of Brain Imaging (LOBI), Neurobiology Center, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland. m.wierzba@nencki.gov.pl.
2
Laboratory of Brain Imaging (LOBI), Neurobiology Center, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland.
3
Laboratory of Psychophysiology, Department of Neurophysiology, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland.
4
Faculty of Psychology, SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Warsaw, Poland.
5
Laboratory of Brain Imaging (LOBI), Neurobiology Center, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland. a.marchewka@nencki.gov.pl.

Abstract

It is widely accepted that people differ in memory performance. The ability to control one's memory depends on multiple factors, including the emotional properties of the memorized material. While it was widely demonstrated that emotion can facilitate memory, it is unclear how emotion modifies our ability to suppress memory. One of the reasons for the lack of consensus among researchers is that individual differences in memory performance were largely neglected in previous studies. We used the directed forgetting paradigm in an fMRI study, in which subjects viewed neutral and emotional words, which they were instructed to remember or to forget. Subsequently, subjects' memory of these words was tested. Finally, they assessed the words on scales of valence, arousal, sadness and fear. We found that memory performance depended on instruction as reflected in the engagement of the lateral prefrontal cortex (lateral PFC), irrespective of emotional properties of words. While the lateral PFC engagement did not differ between neutral and emotional conditions, it correlated with behavioural performance when emotional - as opposed to neutral - words were presented. A deeper understanding of the underlying brain mechanisms is likely to require a study of individual differences in cognitive abilities to suppress memory.

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