Examining Multiple Routes to Emotional Memory Bias
Emotions play a fundamental role in how we remember the past. Decades of neuroscience research have uncovered the neural mechanisms that help explain why we selectively remember emotional experiences, often at the expense of more neutral ones. What remains less understood, however, are the factors that govern biased access to certain emotional memories over others. Discerning such effects can provide insight to aberrant memory biases that perpetuate psychopathological symptoms in a wide range of clinical disorders. Here I present three different routes to emotional memory bias, stemming from factors at encoding, consolidation, or retrieval that selectively influence what we remember from the past and how we remember it. First, I tested the influence of spatial proximity during initial exposure to threatening stimuli, finding that threats encountered in near space activate a distinct neural fear circuit that predicts enhanced reinstatement the next day. Second, I tested the influence of mood during consolidation, finding that mood after encoding retroactively strengthens mood-congruent content into long-term memory. Third, I tested how memories can be modified at retrieval by manipulating conceptual and perceptual features of the remembered event, finding that these two forms of reconstruction recruit distinct neural profiles. Finally, I summarize how these studies inform memory biases in mood disorders, while also discussing related work on emotion representation and dispositional biases in retrieval tendencies.
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