Larry Cahill

cahillOur research focuses on neural mechanisms of memory formation for emotionally arousing events. Although in the past we have pursued this goal using both animal and human subject models, our current work focuses primarily on human subject studies. We employ neuropharmacological, neuropsychological, and brain imaging approaches in these studies. Our research suggests that activation of beta-adrenergic receptors and the amygdala in humans are critical for enhanced conscious (“declarative”) memory associated with emotional arousal. For example, we have found that beta-adrenergic blockade in healthy humans selectively impairs long-term memory for emotionally arousing material. Patients with selective damage to the amygdala show a similar deficit. Furthermore, amnesic patients with intact amygdalae demonstrate enhanced memory for emotional material despite their overall impaired memory performance. Finally, human brain imaging studies are consistent with the neuropsychological findings in suggesting that amygdala activity in humans is selectively related to memory formation under conditions of emotional arousal. More recently, our work is showing that sex and cerebral hemisphere constitute twin, interacting influences on brain mechanisms of emotion and memory that can no longer be ignored.

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