Declarative memories of stressful events are less prone to forgetting than mundane events. Animal research has demonstrated that such stress effects on consolidation of hippocampal-dependent memories require the amygdala. In humans, it has been shown that during learning, increased amygdala-hippocampal interactions are related to more efficient memory encoding. Animal models predict that following learning, amygdala-hippocampal interactions are instrumental to strengthening the consolidation of such declarative memories. Whether this is the case in humans is unknown and remains to be empirically verified. To test this, we analyzed data from a sample of 120 healthy male participants who performed an incidental encoding task and subsequently underwent resting-state functional MRI in a stressful and a neutral context. Stress was assessed by measures of salivary cortisol, blood pressure, heart rate, and subjective ratings. Memory was tested afterwards outside of the scanner. Our data show that memory was stronger in the stress context compared to the neutral context and that stress-induced cortisol responses were associated with this memory enhancement. Interestingly, amygdala-hippocampal connectivity during post-encoding awake rest regardless of context (stress or neutral) was associated with the enhanced memory performance under stress. Thus, our findings are in line with a role for intrinsic functional connectivity during rest between the amygdala and the hippocampus in the state effects of stress on strengthening memory.
Keywords: Amygdala; Emotional memory; Functional MRI; Hippocampus; Memory consolidation.
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