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Positive and Negative Sources of Emotional Arousal Enhance Long-Term Word-List Retention When Induced as Long as 30 Min After Learning

Abstract

The consolidation of newly formed memories occurs slowly, allowing memories to be altered by experience for some time after their formation. Various treatments, including arousal, can modulate memory consolidation when given soon after learning, but the degree of time-dependency of these treatments in humans has not been studied. Thus, 212 participants learned a word list, which was followed by either a positively or negatively valenced arousing video clip (i.e., comedy or surgery, respectively) after delays of 0, 10, 30 or 45 min. Arousal of either valence induced up to 30 min after learning, but not after 45 min, significantly enhanced one-week retrieval. The findings support (1) the time-dependency of memory modulation in humans and (2) other studies that suggest that it is the degree of arousal, rather than valence that modulates memory. Important implications for developing memory intervention strategies and for preserving and validating witness testimony are discussed

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