Article | Published:

Emotional brain states carry over and enhance future memory formation

Nature Neuroscience volume 20, pages 271278 (2017) | Download Citation

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.

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Acknowledgements

We thank E. Bar-David for expert assistance with data collection for the fMRI study and A. Patil, M. Kelemu, C. Brennan and D. Antypa for assistance with behavioral data collection. This work was supported by Dart Neuroscience (L.D.); NIMH grants MH074692 (L.D.), MH062104 (E.A.P.) and MH092055 (A.T.); and by grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation (PZ00P1_137126), the German Research Foundation (DFG RI 1894/2-1), and the European Community Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement 334360 to U.R.

Author information

Author notes

    • Arielle Tambini
    •  & Ulrike Rimmele

    These authors equally contributed to this work.

Affiliations

  1. Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California, USA.

    • Arielle Tambini
  2. Department of Basic Neurosciences, University of Geneva Campus Biotech, Geneva, Switzerland.

    • Ulrike Rimmele
  3. Department of Psychology, New York University, New York, New York, USA.

    • Elizabeth A Phelps
    •  & Lila Davachi
  4. Center for Neural Science, New York University, New York, New York, USA.

    • Elizabeth A Phelps
    •  & Lila Davachi
  5. Nathan Kline Institute, Orangeburg, New York, USA.

    • Elizabeth A Phelps

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Contributions

A.T., U.R., E.A.P. and L.D. designed the experiment and wrote the paper. A.T. and U.R. collected and analyzed the data.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lila Davachi.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.4468

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