Neuroimaging evidence for the emotional potency of odor-evoked memory

Neuropsychologia. 2004;42(3):371-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2003.08.009.


To assess past behavioral reports of the emotional distinctiveness of odor-evoked memories, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to compare regions of activation during recall triggered by olfactory and visual cues that were connected to a personally meaningful memory and a comparable control cue presented in olfactory and visual form. Five healthy right-handed females experienced both behavioral and fMRI memory testing. fMRI analyses indicated significantly greater activation in the amygdala and hippocampal regions during recall to the personally significant odor than any other cue, and behavioral responses confirmed that emotional responses were greatest to the personally meaningful odor. These findings provide convincing neurobiological evidence that the subjective experience of the emotional potency of odor-evoked memory is correlated with specific activation in the amygdala during recall and offers new insights into the affective organization of memory.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Association Learning / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Odorants
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology
  • Visual Perception