Emotional brain states carry over and enhance future memory formation

Nat Neurosci. 2017 Feb;20(2):271-278. doi: 10.1038/nn.4468. Epub 2016 Dec 26.

Abstract

Emotional arousal can produce lasting, vivid memories for emotional experiences, but little is known about whether emotion can prospectively enhance memory formation for temporally distant information. One mechanism that may support prospective memory enhancements is the carry-over of emotional brain states that influence subsequent neutral experiences. Here we found that neutral stimuli encountered by human subjects 9-33 min after exposure to emotionally arousing stimuli had greater levels of recollection during delayed memory testing compared to those studied before emotional and after neutral stimulus exposure. Moreover, multiple measures of emotion-related brain activity showed evidence of reinstatement during subsequent periods of neutral stimulus encoding. Both slow neural fluctuations (low-frequency connectivity) and transient, stimulus-evoked activity predictive of trial-by-trial memory formation present during emotional encoding were reinstated during subsequent neutral encoding. These results indicate that neural measures of an emotional experience can persist in time and bias how new, unrelated information is encoded and recollected.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Young Adult