Emotional memory and psychopathology

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A leading model for studying how the brain forms memories about unpleasant experiences is fear conditioning. A cumulative body of work has identified major components of the neural system mediating this form of learning. The pathways involve transmission of sensory information from processing areas in the thalamus and cortex to the amygdala. The amygdala's lateral nucleus receives and integrates the sensory inputs from the thalamic and cortical areas, and the central nucleus provides the interface with motor systems controlling specific fear responses in various modalities (behavioural, autonomic, endocrine). Internal connections within the amygdala allow the lateral and central nuclei to communicate. Recent studies have begun to identify some sites of plasticity in the circuitry and the cellular mechanisms involved in fear conditioning. Through studies of fear conditioning, our understanding of emotional memory is being taken to the level of cells and synapses in the brain. Advances in understanding emotional memory hold out the possibility that emotional disorders may be better defined and treatment improved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1719-1726
Number of pages8
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1362
StatePublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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