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Can the memory of an object be enhanced by imagining its loss?

DOI: 10.1007/s11434-012-5659-0

Keywords: imagining,vital loss,memory enhancement effect,fMRI

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Previous investigations examining salient memories have demonstrated that personal memories that are important to individuals and contain emotional information are better remembered than neutral events. Using behavioral and brain-imaging experiments, the present studies explored whether the previous finding was applicable imagined loss. In a behavioral experiment, a free recall paradigm was used to compare the memory performance of individuals who imagined loss with that of individuals who imagined importance. The superior memory performance conferred by imagining loss was constrained to ordinary items of low to medium importance and did not generalize to vital items. Moreover, brain imaging evidence revealed that the activation in certain brain regions was stronger when participants were imagining the loss of ordinary items of low to medium importance compared to vital items. These brain regions included cognitive effort-related areas (such as the parietal cortex and middle prefrontal cortex) and areas related to emotional experiences and emotion-related memories (such as the amygdala, parahippocampal gyrus, and posterior cingulate gyrus). Our study provides a new way of exploring the superior memory performance when imagining loss and enriches the literature on memory enhancement by contributing to a deeper understanding of the psychological mechanisms related to the imagining of vital losses.


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