Memories for emotional autobiographical events following unilateral damage to medial temporal lobe

Brain. 2006 Jan;129(Pt 1):115-27. doi: 10.1093/brain/awh672. Epub 2005 Nov 16.


Abnormalities of both memory and emotion have been reported in patients with unilateral damage to the anteromedial temporal lobe, probably reflecting the functions of the amygdala and hippocampus in these processes. Emotion and memory are also known to interact: emotional experiences often leave remarkably durable autobiographical memories. To explore this interaction, and to extend prior studies to the domain of autobiographical memory, we investigated the recollection of real-life emotional events in patients with unilateral damage to the anteromedial temporal lobe. Twenty-three patients who had undergone unilateral temporal lobectomy for the treatment of epilepsy (12 left, 11 right) and 20 healthy comparison participants completed an emotional autobiographical memory test. Participants were asked to recollect their five most emotional memories from any time in their lives and then they completed a word-cued autobiographical memory task. Participants dated each memory and gave ratings on scales of pleasantness, intensity, significance, novelty, vividness and frequency of rehearsal. Left temporal lobectomy (LTL) and healthy comparison groups generated similar numbers of pleasant and unpleasant memories, whereas the right temporal lobectomy (RTL) group produced significantly fewer memories of unpleasant events (P < 0.01). When memories were further categorized according to pleasantness and intensity, the RTL group produced significantly fewer unpleasant/high intensity memories than the other groups (P < 0.01). All groups reported more memories from between the ages of 10 and 30 (the so-called autobiographical memory 'bump'). The results demonstrate a positive bias in the recollection of autobiographical memory following right-sided anteromedial temporal damage. This finding is consistent with the notion that the right, but not the left, anteromedial temporal lobe is involved in the retrieval of negatively valenced, high-intensity memories.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anterior Temporal Lobectomy
  • Autobiographies as Topic
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Emotions*
  • Epilepsy / psychology
  • Epilepsy / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychological Tests
  • Sex Factors
  • Temporal Lobe / pathology
  • Temporal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Temporal Lobe / surgery