Emotional memory for basic emotions in amnesia

Stanciu, Marian Andrei (2014) Emotional memory for basic emotions in amnesia. PhD thesis, Prifysgol Bangor University.

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Emotions are ubiquitous in everyday life, and can often be re-experienced accurately after long periods. Emotions also have a strong mutual influence on other memory systems (most notably episodic memory), but rely on different neuroanatomical structures, and can function independently – often reported in amnesic patients. However, unlike episodic memory, many fundamental questions about the structure of emotions remain unresolved. The two most influential accounts of the organisation of affect (the dimensional and categorical theories) are surprisingly divergent, an issue not addressed by the fact that emotion memory studies tend to be based on two rather than many emotion categories. Moreover, the field lacks sophisticated empirical tools for analysing discrete emotions, and calculating their specificity. Using a novel set of controlled emotional stories, the present thesis investigated the re-experience of four discrete classes of emotion (anger, fear, sadness, and happiness) in three samples: neurologically-normal participants (N=32), Korsakoff’s syndrome patients (N=20), and age-matched controls (N=20). The results suggest that: (1) The most durable form of emotional memory encodes affective valence. Discrete emotions can be reliably re-experienced, but require stronger forms of emotion elicitation than valence. (2) Remarkably, severely amnesic Korsakoff’s syndrome patients show a preserved ability to re-experience discrete emotions, at similar levels of intensity to neurologically-normal age-matched controls. Furthermore, the intensity of discrete emotions, in patients and controls, appears to be related to core executive functions; (3) Using a novel methodological approach, it is clear that the brief experience of certain discrete emotions (e.g., happiness) also increases the specificity of other emotions (e.g., anger and fear). Thus, the present thesis provides a unique attempt to reconcile the dimensional and categorical theories of emotions, and allows the investigation of specific basic emotions, while accounting for the experience of other basic emotions.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: Degree Thesis
Departments: College of Health and Behavioural Sciences > School of Psychology
Degree Thesis
Date Deposited: 28 Aug 2015 10:16
Last Modified: 05 Sep 2016 15:37
URI: http://e.bangor.ac.uk/id/eprint/4778
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