Event-related potential correlates of the retrieval of emotional and nonemotional context

Adam P R Smith, Raymond J Dolan, Michael D Rugg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

97 Citations (Scopus)


In two experiments, we examined event-related potentials (ERPs) elicited in an old/new recognition memory test by emotionally neutral visual objects that, at encoding, had been associated with neutrally, negatively, or positively valenced background contexts. In Experiment 2, subjects also judged the context in which the item had been studied. In Experiment 1, "left parietal" old/new ERP effects were elicited by correctly recognized items. Items encoded in emotional contexts, but not those studied in neutral contexts, elicited additional effects early in the recording epoch over lateral temporal scalp and, later, over left temporo-frontal scalp. In Experiment 2, "left parietal" and "right frontal" ERP effects were elicited by recognized items that attracted correct source judgments. Additional effects, an early lateral temporal positivity and a late-onset, left-sided positivity, were elicited by items studied in emotionally valenced contexts and attracting correct source judgments. Together, the findings indicate that retrieval processing is influenced by the emotional valence of the context in which an item is encoded, regardless of whether contextual information is task relevant.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)760-75
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2004


  • Emotions
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Association Learning
  • Humans
  • Electroencephalography
  • Mental Recall
  • Cerebral Cortex
  • Judgment
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Brain Mapping
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Adult
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Adolescent
  • Male
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Reaction Time


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