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Physiological arousal and visuocortical connectivity predict subsequent vividness of negative memories

Kark, Sarah M.; Kensinger, Elizabeth A.

doi: 10.1097/WNR.0000000000001274
Integrative Systems

Relative to neutral memories, negative and positive memories both exhibit an increase in memory longevity, subjective memory re-experiencing and amygdala activation. These memory enhancements are often attributed to shared influences of arousal on memory. Yet, prior work suggests the intriguing possibility that arousal affects memory networks in valence-specific ways. Psychophysics work has shown that arousal-related heart rate deceleration (HRD) responses are related to enhanced amygdala-visual functional connectivity (AVFC) and visual perception of negative stimuli. However, in the memory realm, it is not known whether the effect of AVFC influences subsequent negative memory outcomes as a function of the magnitude of physiological arousal during encoding. Using psycho-autonomic interaction analyses and trial-level measures of HRD as an objective measure of arousal during encoding of emotional stimuli, our findings suggest that the magnitude of the HRD modulates the effect of AVFC on subsequent negative memory vividness. Specifically, AVFC effects in early visual regions predicted negative memory vividness, not neutral or positive vividness, but only in the presence of heightened physiological arousal. This novel approach was grounded in a replication of prior working showing enhanced HRD effects in the insula for negative stimuli. These findings demonstrate that the effect of arousal on emotional memory networks depends on valence and provide further evidence that negative valence may enhance the incorporation of visuo-sensory regions into emotional memory networks.

Department of Psychology, Boston College, Massachusetts, USA

Received 9 May 2019 Accepted 14 May 2019

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Correspondence to Sarah M. Kark, Department of Psychology, McGuinn Hall Room 300, Boston College, 140 Commonwealth Avenue, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467, USA, Tel: 617-552-6949; fax: 617-552-0523; e-mail:

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