Emotional Impact Can Be Key to Memory
Posted: Tuesday, August 7, 2001
(ABC News) One of the keys to locking in a memory is how much emotion is attached to it.
"I think it's fascinating how some memories stick and others seem to disappear into thin air," says Stephan Hamann, an assistant psychology professor at Emory University who researches this very phenomenon.
Hamann uses functional magnetic resonance imaging, a technique that builds on standard MRI hardware, to chart activity in people's brains as they are shown different pictures and words.
Half of the stimuli are meant to evoke emotion, while the other half are neutral. Examining the data, Hamann is then able to "see what areas are more active at that particular time" when a picture or word is shown.
Results indicate that when items with high emotional content are shown, a specific area of the brain's temporal lobe called the amygdala lights up. The amygdala is the center of emotion in the brain and, it is becoming clear, a very strong tool for solidly hammering in a memory.
"When the amygdala detects emotion, it essentially boosts activity in areas of the brain that form memories," says Hamann. "And that's how it makes a stronger memory and a more vivid memory." More
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