In sync: gamma oscillations and emotional memory

Front Behav Neurosci. 2013 Nov 21:7:170. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2013.00170.


Emotional experiences leave vivid memories that can last a lifetime. The emotional facilitation of memory has been attributed to the engagement of diffusely projecting neuromodulatory systems that enhance the consolidation of synaptic plasticity in regions activated by the experience. This process requires the propagation of signals between brain regions, and for those signals to induce long-lasting synaptic plasticity. Both of these demands are met by gamma oscillations, which reflect synchronous population activity on a fast timescale (35-120 Hz). Regions known to participate in the formation of emotional memories, such as the basolateral amygdala, also promote gamma-band activation throughout cortical and subcortical circuits. Recent studies have demonstrated that gamma oscillations are enhanced during emotional situations, coherent between regions engaged by salient stimuli, and predict subsequent memory for cues associated with aversive stimuli. Furthermore, neutral stimuli that come to predict emotional events develop enhanced gamma oscillations, reflecting altered processing in the brain, which may underpin how past emotional experiences color future learning and memory.

Keywords: amygdala; arousal; associative memory; emotional memory; gamma oscillations.

Publication types

  • Review