New findings support the broad principle that retrieval suppression is achieved by regulating hippocampal processes in tandem with domain-specific brain regions involved in reinstating specific content, in an activity-dependent fashion.
Upsetting events sometimes trigger intrusive images that cause distress and that may contribute to psychiatric disorders. People often respond to intrusions by suppressing their retrieval, excluding them from awareness. Here we examined whether suppressing aversive images might also alter emotional responses to them, and the mechanisms underlying such changes. We found that the better people were at suppressing intrusions, the more it reduced their emotional responses to suppressed images. These dual effects on memory and emotion originated from a common right prefrontal cortical mechanism that downregulated the hippocampus and amygdala in parallel. Thus, suppressing intrusions affected emotional content. Importantly, participants who did not suppress intrusions well showed increased negative affect, suggesting that suppression deficits render people vulnerable to psychiatric disorders.
Read the full report in the Journal of Neuroscience.