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Published May 2000 | Published
Journal Article Open

Impaired Emotional Declarative Memory Following Unilateral Amygdala Damage


Case studies of patients with bilateral amygdala damage and functional imaging studies of normal individuals have demonstrated that the amygdala plays a critical role in encoding emotionally arousing stimuli into long-term declarative memory. However, several issues remain poorly understood: the separate roles of left and right amygdala, the time course over which the amygdala participates in memory consolidation, and the type of knowledge structures it helps consolidate. We investigated these questions in eight subjects with unilateral amygdala damage, using several different measures. For comparison, our main task used stimuli identical to those used previously to investigate emotional declarative memory in patients with bilateral amygdala damage. Contrasts with both brain-damaged and normal control groups showed that subjects with left amygdala damage were impaired in their memory for emotional stimuli, despite entirely normal memory for neutral stimuli (because of a number of caveats, the findings from subjects with right amygdala damage were less clear). Follow-up experiments suggested that the normal facilitation of memory for emotional stimuli may develop over an extended time course (>30 min), consistent with prior findings, and that the specific impairment we report may depend in part on the lexical nature of the task used (written questionnaire). We stress the complex and temporally extended nature of memory consolidation and suggest that the amygdala may influence specific components of this process.

Additional Information

© 2000 by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. Received January 28, 2000; accepted in revised form March 27, 2000. We thank Jeremy Nath and Kristofer Kinsey for help with testing subjects and Denise Krutzfeldt for help in scheduling their visits. Supported by a FIRST Award from NIMH to R.A. 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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