The University of Arizona

Events & News

Cog Sci Brown Bag Seminar

DateFriday, January 29, 2010
Time12:00 pm
LocationGS 906
SpeakerMara Mather
TitleAssociate Professor
AffiliationGerontology & Psychology - University of Southern California

The Immutable Nature of Emotional Memories: Emotion-Impaired Memory Updating

ABSTRACT: Life is filled with a shifting configuration of associations between people, objects, places and events. For instance, a person met for the first time in one context may be encountered again in another context. Our research reveals that emotional associations interfere more with subsequent memory updating than neutral associations do, making emotional memories less malleable than neutral memories. Based on our behavioral and neuroimaging findings, our hypothesis is that the amygdala blocks new memory associations to emotional items with previous memory associations whereas lateral prefrontal cortex counters the amygdala’s resistance to memory updating, helping make it possible to learn new associations to information with previous emotional associations. Our findings that it is harder to learn new associations to an item when previous emotional associations have been made to that item have important implications in applied domains such as eyewitness memory, treatment for overly intrusive memories, and educational methods for enhancing learning and retention.