Unwanted reminders: The effects of emotional memory suppression on subsequent neuro-cognitive processing

Conscious Cogn. 2016 Aug:44:103-113. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2016.07.008. Epub 2016 Jul 27.


The neural basis of voluntarily suppressing conscious access to one's own memories (retrieval suppression [RS]) has recently received considerable attention. However, to date there has been limited research examining the effects of RS on subsequent processing of associated retrieval cues. In this study 47 healthy participants completed a Think/No Think task for memories of emotionally unpleasant visual scenes. While undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), participants were then presented with cues associated with both suppressed ("no-think-cues") and non-suppressed ("think-cues") memories, and then asked to perform simple arithmetic problems. We observed that, compared to think-cues, no-think-cues were associated with greater left mid/anterior insula activation and with greater insula-anterior cingulate functional connectivity; left insula activation also predicted worse arithmetic performance. These results suggest that cues associated with suppressed negative memories may lead to greater activation of the brain's "salience" network, and reduced available cognitive resources for completion of an ongoing goal-directed task.

Keywords: Cognitive control; Emotional interference; Insula; Retrieval suppression; Think/No-Think.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cues*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Young Adult