Emotion is known to influence multiple aspects of memory formation, including the initial encoding of the memory trace and its consolidation over time. However, the neural mechanisms whereby emotion impacts memory encoding remain largely unexplored. The present study used a levels-of-processing manipulation to characterize the impact of emotion on encoding with and without the influence of elaborative processes. Participants viewed emotionally negative, neutral, and positive scenes under two conditions: a shallow condition focused on the perceptual features of the scenes and a deep condition that queried their semantic meaning. Recognition memory was tested 2 days later. Results showed that emotional memory enhancements were greatest in the shallow condition. fMRI analyses revealed that the right amygdala predicted subsequent emotional memory in the shallow more than deep condition, whereas the right ventrolateral PFC demonstrated the reverse pattern. Furthermore, the association of these regions with the hippocampus was modulated by valence: the amygdala–hippocampal link was strongest for negative stimuli, whereas the prefrontal–hippocampal link was strongest for positive stimuli. Taken together, these results suggest two distinct activation patterns underlying emotional memory formation: an amygdala component that promotes memory during shallow encoding, especially for negative information, and a prefrontal component that provides extra benefits during deep encoding, especially for positive information.

You do not currently have access to this content.