Involvement of the amygdala in memory storage: interaction with other brain systems

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Nov 26;93(24):13508-14. doi: 10.1073/pnas.93.24.13508.


There is extensive evidence that the amygdala is involved in affectively influenced memory. The central hypothesis guiding the research reviewed in this paper is that emotional arousal activates the amygdala and that such activation results in the modulation of memory storage occurring in other brain regions. Several lines of evidence support this view. First, the effects of stress-related hormones (epinephrine and glucocorticoids) are mediated by influences involving the amygdala. In rats, lesions of the amygdala and the stria terminalis block the effects of posttraining administration of epinephrine and glucocorticoids on memory. Furthermore, memory is enhanced by posttraining intraamygdala infusions of drugs that activate beta-adrenergic and glucocorticoid receptors. Additionally, infusion of beta-adrenergic blockers into the amygdala blocks the memory-modulating effects of epinephrine and glucocorticoids, as well as those of drugs affecting opiate and GABAergic systems. Second, an intact amygdala is not required for expression of retention. Inactivation of the amygdala prior to retention testing (by posttraining lesions or drug infusions) does not block retention performance. Third, findings of studies using human subjects are consistent with those of animal experiments. beta-Blockers and amygdala lesions attenuate the effects of emotional arousal on memory. Additionally, 3-week recall of emotional material is highly correlated with positronemission tomography activation (cerebral glucose metabolism) of the right amygdala during encoding. These findings provide strong evidence supporting the hypothesis that the amygdala is involved in modulating long-term memory storage.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Arousal
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Emotions
  • Epinephrine / pharmacology
  • Epinephrine / physiology
  • Glucocorticoids / pharmacology
  • Glucocorticoids / physiology
  • Humans
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Models, Psychological
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta / physiology
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid / physiology
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / physiology


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Epinephrine