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Published November 2001 | Published
Journal Article Open

Verbal and Nonverbal Emotional Memory Following Unilateral Amygdala Damage


The amygdala is involved in the normal facilitation of memory by emotion, but the separate contributions of the left and right amygdala to memory for verbal or nonverbal emotional material have not been investigated. Fourteen patients with damage to the medial temporal lobe including the amygdala (seven left, seven right), 18 brain-damaged, and 36 normal controls were exposed to emotional and neutral pictures accompanied by verbal narratives. Memory for both narratives and pictures was assessed with a free recall test 24 h later. Subjects with left amygdala damage failed to show the normally robust enhancement of memory for verbal and nonverbal emotional stimuli. The group with right amygdala damage showed the normal pattern of facilitation of memory by emotion for both verbal and nonverbal stimuli despite an overall reduction in memory performance. Furthermore, subjects with left amygdala damage were disproportionately impaired on memory for emotional narratives as compared with memory for emotional pictures. The latter finding offers partial support for a lateralized and material-specific pattern of the amygdala's contribution to emotional memory.

Additional Information

© 2001 by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. Received March 9, 2001; accepted in revised form September 12, 2001. The authors thank Matt Karafin for assistance in scoring memory tests, Ken Manzel for assistance with testing and obtaining information about subjects' medical status, and Denise Krutzfeldt for help in scheduling subjects' visits. Additionally, we thank Drs. John Allen and Hanna Damasio for neuroanatomical guidance. This study was supported by a grant from NIMH to R.A. (R29 MH57905-03) and by Program Project Grant NINDS NS19632. The publication costs of this article were defrayed in part by payment of page charges. This article must therefore be hereby marked "advertisement" in accordance with 18 USC section 1734 solely to indicate this fact.

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August 19, 2023
October 19, 2023