Suppressing cortisol at encoding reduces the emotional enhancement in subjective sense of recollection

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Abstract

The stress hormone cortisol, released when encountering an emotional event, contributes to form a strong emotional memory. Such emotionally arousing memories are recalled with an enhanced subjective sense of recollection, i.e. experienced in memory as more vivid and richer in details. We examined here whether cortisol plays a role in this emotional enhancement in subjective sense of recollection for a set of learned scenes. Suppressing cortisol at encoding decreased the emotional enhancement in subjective sense of recollection at a test 28 h later, but did not affect familiarity and memory for a contextual detail. Individual cortisol levels were significantly correlated to emotional enhancement in subjective sense of recollection. These findings indicate that cortisol plays a modulatory role for enhanced subjective sense of recollection for emotional events.

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