Academic journal article Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience

Emotional Valence Influences the Neural Correlates Associated with Remembering and Knowing

Academic journal article Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience

Emotional Valence Influences the Neural Correlates Associated with Remembering and Knowing

Article excerpt

In the present study, we examined whether emotional valence modulates the neural processes that are engaged during the encoding of information that is later vividly remembered versus that which is only known to be familiar. Participants underwent an fMRI scan while viewing positive, negative, and neutral stimuli. Later, recognized items were labeled as either remembered or known. Negative items that were later vividly remembered recruited temporo-occipital regions associated with sensory processing more than did positive or neutral items that were vividly remembered. The encoding of positive information later known recruited the cingulate gyrus and bilateral frontal and parietal areas-regions associated with episodic and semantic retrieval and self-referential processing-more than did the encoding of negative or neutral items that were later known. These results suggest that memories for negative items may be vividly recollected due to increased sensory processing during encoding, whereas enhanced gist-based processing of positive information may lead to increased feelings of familiarity.

Information can be recognized with varying amounts of detail. Some items are recollected with crisp visual detail or with vivid contextual details that make us sure we have seen the items before. Other items leave behind only a haze of familiarity: We know that we have seen the items before, but we can't quite phi down why we know this. When participants recognize an item as a studied one, they could be using either recollection or familiarity to support their decisions. A common way to distinguish the cognitive processes is to ask participants whether they are able to vividly "remember" the item or whether they simply "know" that it was presented because it is familiar to them. A "remember" response indicates recollection of the episodic details, whereas a "know" response reflects item familiarity in the absence of recollection.

Although it has been debated to what extent these different forms of recognition are supported by distinct processes (see Jacoby, 1991; Mandler, 1980; Slotnick & Dodson, 2005; Wais, Wixted, Hopkins, & Squire, 2006; Yonelinas, 2002), there is increasing evidence to suggest that vividly remembering information is supported by different processes than those used when simply knowing that something is familiar. In particular, items that are later vividly remembered are associated with activity in the hippocampus and in the posterior parahippocampus, whereas items that are later only known to be familiar tend to be associated with activity in the rhinal cortex (see Davachi & Wagner, 2002; Dobbins, Kroll, & Yonelinas, 2004; Kensinger, Clarke, & Corkin, 2003; Ranganath et al., 2003). Prefrontal contributions during encoding also may influence the likelihood that an item is later remembered vividly (Davidson & Glisky, 2002; Kensinger et al., 2003; Knowlton & Squire, 1995; Manns, Hopkins, Reed, Kitchener, & Squire, 2003); although prefrontal regions can support both vivid remembering and feelings of familiarity, subrogions of the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex may be particularly important for vivid recollections (Ranganath et al., 2003).

It has been less clear whether the emotional valence of information has an influence on these general dissociations between the neural systems associated with subsequent remembering and knowing. The few studies that have focused on the neural processes supporting recollection of emotional information have suggested that the amygdala plays a critical role, both at encoding (Adolphs, Tranel, & Buchanan, 2005; Kensinger & Schacter, 2005) and at retrieval (Sharot, Delgado, & Phelps, 2004). By contrast, the amygdala plays no role in the recollection of neutral information (see Phelps, 2006). Although this finding might suggest that distinct processes support the vivid remembering of emotional as compared with nonemotional items, it does appear that the amygdala exerts many of its effects through interactions with the hippocampus proper (Packard, Cahill, & McGaugh, 1994)-a key player in the recollection of neutral information (Kensinger & Corkin, 2004; Richardson, Strange, & Dolan, 2004). …

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