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Memory consolidation reconfigures neural pathways involved in the suppression of emotional memories.

Liu Y, Lin W, Liu C, Luo Y, Wu J, Bayley PJ, Qin S. Memory consolidation reconfigures neural pathways involved in the suppression of emotional memories. Nature communications. 2016 Nov 29; 7:13375.

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The ability to suppress unwanted emotional memories is crucial for human mental health. Through consolidation over time, emotional memories often become resistant to change. However, how consolidation impacts the effectiveness of emotional memory suppression is still unknown. Using event-related fMRI while concurrently recording skin conductance, we investigated the neurobiological processes underlying the suppression of aversive memories before and after overnight consolidation. Here we report that consolidated aversive memories retain their emotional reactivity and become more resistant to suppression. Suppression of consolidated memories involves higher prefrontal engagement, and less concomitant hippocampal and amygdala disengagement. In parallel, we show a shift away from hippocampal-dependent representational patterns to distributed neocortical representational patterns in the suppression of aversive memories after consolidation. These findings demonstrate rapid changes in emotional memory organization with overnight consolidation, and suggest possible neurobiological bases underlying the resistance to suppression of emotional memories in affective disorders.

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