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How Negative Emotion Enhances the Visual Specificity of a Memory



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Running Head Negative Emotion and Memory Specificity How Negative Emotion Enhances the Visual Specificity of a Memory Elizabeth A Kensinger 1 3 Rachel J Garoff Eaton 2 3 and Daniel L Schacter 2 3 1 Department of Psychology Boston College 2 Department of Psychology Harvard University 3 Athinoula A Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging Address correspondence to Elizabeth A Kensinger Ph D McGuinn Hall Room 510 140 Commonwealth Ave Chestnut Hill MA 02467 Phone 617 552 1350 Fax 617 552 0523 Email Elizabeth kensinger bc edu Negative Emotion and Memory Specificity 2 Some studies have suggested that emotion primarily increases memory for gist and does not enhance memory for detail There are however some instances in which negative objects e g snake grenade are remembered with more visual detail than neutral objects e g barometer blender In the present fMRI study we examined the encoding processes that lead a person to remember the exact visual details of negative and neutral objects and to remember which of two decisions were made about the objects a size decision or an animacy decision The enhancement in memory for a negative item s visual details appeared to result from enhanced visual processing The right fusiform gyrus a region known to be critical for processing exemplar specific details showed a greater extent and magnitude of activity during the successful encoding of negative objects Activity in the right amygdala also corresponded with memory for visual detail although it did not relate to memory for the task performed with the item These data provide strong evidence that engagement of some amygdalar regions can correspond with enhanced memory for certain types of details but does not ensure successful encoding of all contextual details Keywords amygdala detail fMRI fusiform gist memory neuroimaging Negative Emotion and Memory Specificity 3 Individuals often claim to remember emotional experiences with rich detail Laboratory studies repeatedly have demonstrated



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