Neural correlates of emotional memories: A review of evidence from brain imaging studies

Florin Dolcos, Ekaterina Denkova, Sanda Dolcos

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


What are the neural markers of encoding and retrieving emotional events with increased efficacy? In recent years, this question has captured the attention of cognitive neuroscientists who fervently engaged in addressing it using a multitude of approaches. The present review discusses evidence from brain imaging studies investigating the neural correlates of the memory-enhancing effect of emotion in healthy human participants. The available evidence points to two main mechanisms: one direct involving the medial temporal lobe (MTL), and the other indirect involving the prefrontal cortex (PFC), among other brain regions. Recent studies also showed that these mechanisms are sensitive to aspects relevant to social interactions, as well as to personality-, sex- and age-related differences. Overall, this evidence provides insights into the brain mechanisms that make emotional memories special, and points to possible alterations that could lead to negative affective biases in encoding and remembering emotional memories observed in affective disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)80-111
Number of pages32
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2012


  • Amygdala
  • Emotion-cognition interactions
  • Hippocampus
  • Individual differences
  • Modulation hypothesis
  • Neuroimaging
  • Social cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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