Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Mind

#68: Emotions Survive After Memories Vanish

By Lydia FongDecember 16, 2010 6:00 AM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

People suffering from anterograde amnesia—caused by damage to the brain’s hippocampus—can remember details about their past but lack the ability to form new memories. Not everything gets lost, however. In April University of Iowa researchers observed that emotions persist in these amnesiac individuals even after they forget the cause, an important clue about how the brain stores different kinds of information.

Neuropsychologist Justin Feinstein and his collaborators showed a group of patients with severe anterograde amnesia two series of video clips (including scenes from The Notebook and America’s Funniest Home Videos) to induce sadness and happiness in their subjects. Memory tests administered several minutes later showed that the patients retained few, if any, specific details about the clips. But emotion measurements showed that the feelings induced by the videos lingered, with sadness outlasting happiness.

“Even though emotions seem fused together with memories in our stream of consciousness, it turns out that this is not the case,” Feinstein says.

Patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia have damage to the hippocampus similar to that seen in people with anterograde amnesia. The new study therefore suggests that a visit or telephone call with such patients could have profound positive effects even if the interaction is soon forgotten, Feinstein says.

3 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In