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Title: Neural basis of the episodic retrieval of emotional memories
Author: Smith, Adam Paul Richard
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2005
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There is considerable evidence that memory is enhanced for emotional events and items, reflecting the evolutionary importance of our ability to modify representations of the biological or social value of environmental elements, and react appropriately to them. Differences in the neural and cognitive processing of emotional and neutral memories have been the subject of much interest in neuroscientific research. Whilst many studies have focused on the role of emotion in modulating encoding and consolidation of memory, few have examined interactions between emotion and memory during retrieval. The aim of the work described in this thesis was to investigate neural activity associated with retrieval of emotional and neutral episodic memories using both event-related potentials and functional magnetic resonance imaging, such that activity could be determined with high temporal and spatial resolution. A series of experiments were carried out investigating retrieval activity associated with neutral items encoded in emotional or neutral contexts, thereby avoiding confounds associated with previous experiments directly comparing recognition of emotional and neutral stimuli. Firstly, the neural correlates of simple recognition of items from emotional and neutral contexts, where context was not task relevant, were characterised. Qualitatively dissociable patterns of activity were revealed during retrieval of emotional and neutral contexts, with emotion modulating both pre- and post-retrieval processing. Further experiments revealed distinct patterns of activity, most notably a lateralization of amygdala responses, differentiating successful from unsuccessful retrieval of emotional information. The importance of the relevance of emotional information to ongoing behaviour was also found to modulate patterns of retrieval activity. Finally, functional connectivity analyses revealed dynamic interactions between hippocampus, amygdala and medial orbitofrontal cortex underlying retrieval of emotional memories. These findings provide insights into the nature of the neural and cognitive processes supporting retrieval of emotional information, while using paradigms which avoid confounding mnemonic effects with online processing.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available