Highlight: The brain seconds that emotion

Aug 06, 2010

Smells from your childhood kitchen, the sight of friends and family in old photographs, the feel of a well-worn flannel shirt…all these sensory experiences can conjure up powerful memories.

This happens because sensory information is tightly bound with emotional information when the brain stores an emotional , as a new study shows.

The regions that receive signals from our eyes, nose and skin are divided into subsections that play different roles in processing this input.

By training rats to associate tonal sounds, flashing lights or the smell of vinegar with the experience of receiving an electric shock, Tiziana Sacco and Benedetto Sacchetti determined that Pavlovian fear memories are stored in the secondary auditory, visual and olfactory cortices, respectively.

Creating lesions in these appeared to disrupt already established memories, but it didn’t prevent the formation of new ones, suggesting that the secondary sensory cortices are essential for storing emotional memories.

The authors propose that sights, sounds and smells associated with a highly charged emotional situation take on the affective qualities of that situation when are woven into memories by the secondary sensory cortices.

The connections between these cortices may then provide an “integrated view of the whole emotional experience during memory recall,” the authors write.

The findings are published in today’s edition of the journal Science.

Explore further: New learning mechanism for individual nerve cells

More information: "Role of Secondary Sensory Cortices in Emotional Memory Storage and Retrieval in Rats," by T. Sacco; B. Sacchetti at University of Turin in Turin, Italy; B. Sacchetti at National Institute of Neuroscience in Turin, Italy. Science, Aug 6, 2010.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Older adults remember the good times

Mar 24, 2010

Despite the aches and pains that occur in old age, many older adults maintain a positive outlook, remembering the positive experiences from their past. A new study, reported in the April 2010 issue of Elsevier's Cortex, reveal ...

Controlling our brain's perception of emotional events

Apr 20, 2009

Research performed by Nicole Lauzon and Dr. Steven Laviolette of the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at The University of Western Ontario has found key processes in the brain that control the emotional significance ...

Early scents really do get 'etched' in the brain

Nov 05, 2009

Common experience tells us that particular scents of childhood can leave quite an impression, for better or for worse. Now, researchers reporting the results of a brain imaging study online on November 5th ...

Study watches the brain 'shutting off'

Apr 19, 2006

Israeli scientists say they have observed the human brain in the act of losing "self" as it shuts down introspection during a demanding sensory task.

Recommended for you

New learning mechanism for individual nerve cells

1 hour ago

The traditional view is that learning is based on the strengthening or weakening of the contacts between the nerve cells in the brain. However, this has been challenged by new research findings from Lund University in Sweden. ...

USC memory scientist Richard Thompson dies at 84

17 hours ago

Richard F. Thompson, the University of Southern California neuroscientist whose experiments with rabbits led to breakthrough discoveries on how memories are physically stored in the brain, has died. He was 84.

Modeling shockwaves through the brain

17 hours ago

Since the start of the military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 300,000 soldiers have returned to the United States with traumatic brain injury caused by exposure to bomb blasts—and in particular, ...

User comments : 0