Event-related potentials of emotional memory: Encoding pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral pictures

Florin Dolcos, Rooberto Cabeza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Emotional events tend to be remembered better than nonemotional events. We investigated this phenomenon by measuring two event-related potential (ERP) effects: the emotion effect (more positive ERPs for pleasant or unpleasant stimuli than for neutral stimuli) and the subsequent memory effect (more positive ERPs for subsequently remembered items than for subsequently forgotten items). ERPs were measured while subjects rated the emotional content of pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral pictures. As was expected, subsequent recall was better for pleasant and unpleasant pictures than for neutral pictures. The emotion effect was sensitive to arousal in parietal electrodes and to both arousal and valence in frontocentral electrodes. The subsequent memory effect at centroparietal electrodes was greater for emotional pictures than for neutral pictures during an early epoch (400-600 msec). This result suggests that emotional information has privileged access to processing resources, possibly leading to better memory formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)252-263
Number of pages12
JournalCognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2002
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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