DEBORAH TALMI, The University of Manchester
Title: Context at the helm of the emotional modulation of memory
Ebbinghaus Empire Series 2016-2017
Abstract: Emotion enhances episodic memory, an effect thought to be an adaptation that increases chances of survival. Although neurobiological investigations have provided many mechanistic clues about how emotional arousal modulates episodic memory, these effects are not clearly integrated with the cognitive and computational neuroscience of memory more generally. Indeed, there isstill uncertainty about even such basic questions as the relative contributions of encoding, maintenance, and retrieval processes to these effects. We present the Emotional Context Maintenance Model, eCMR, which reconceptualizes emotional memory effects as arising from the operation and modulation of temporal context mechanisms that are well understood for the case of neutral stimuli. These mechanisms, as for instance embodied in the CMR model (Polyn, Norman & Kahana, 2009), which we employ and extend here,explain a large range of memory phenomena via a process by which memories become bound to an ever-changing temporal context that in particular is affected by both encoded and retrieved items. Viewing emotional memory effects from this perspective sheds particular light on the way pre-experimental effects of emotional arousal manifest themselves during study (which are recognized as broadly similar to other sorts of contextual memory effects), and provides a clear and well-studied framework by which to investigate the contributions of encoding and retrieval processes to these effects. We consider a number of alternative ways to capture emotionalmodulation effects within CMR. The effects of emotion were best captured by representing emotional arousal as strengthening item-to-context associations while at the same time modulating an emotion-related sub-partition of the temporal context. eCMR provides a good qualitative fit for the effect of emotion on free recall of pure lists, which include only emotional stimuli or only neutral stimuli, and mixed lists, which include a mix of emotional and neutral stimuli, illuminating how encoding and retrieval processes together give rise to the list composition effect. By leveraging the rich tradition of temporal context models, eCMR present an exciting opportunity to integrate existing effects of emotion and develop a deeper understanding of their underlying mechanism.
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