Cognitive neuroscience research has greatly advanced our understanding of the cognitive and neural processes that underlie the successful encoding and retrieval of information. The bulk of this research, however, has been conducted with stimuli intentionally chosen to elicit no emotional responses. But in our daily lives, many experiences are infused with emotional importance and personal significance: We receive a compliment from a coworker, or we witness a car crash. The broad goal of the research proposed in this application is to examine how the emotional content of information affects the cognitive and neural processes engaged during memory formation. Individuals often claim to remember emotional events with tremendous detail. For example, nearly everyone claims to remember details such as where they were and what they were doing when J.F.K. was shot (Winograd &Killinger, 1983). There has been extensive debate, however, about whether these subjective reports correspond with the objective accuracy of emotional long-term memories. The proposed research will examine the effects of emotion on memory accuracy (Specific Aim 1) and, through a combination of behavioral testing and neuroimaging (functional magnetic resonance imaging) approaches will examine the cognitive (Specific Aim 2) and neural (Specific Aim 3) processes that underlie our memories for information with emotional relevance.
By addressing core questions with regard to emotion's effect on memory, the proposed research will provide insight into how memory formation occurs within the emotional context of everyday life. This knowledge is likely to provide insight into the memory disorders and biases observed in affective disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
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