Quirks & Quarks

Your emotional hangover is real

Scientists have measured the feelings that linger after an intense emotional experience
A woman reacts as she views tributes to singer George Michael outside of his home in north London, England. (REUTERS)

Previous studies have shown that emotional memories last longer than non-emotional ones.  But a new study by Dr. Lila Davachi from New York University has taken that fact one step further. 

In her experiment, one group of volunteers were shown images of emotional images followed by images of non-emotional or neutral images. Another group were shown the same images, but in reverse order. 

Those in the first group were able to remember the neutral images better than those in the second group, suggesting that memory for non-emotional experiences is far better if they are encountered after an emotional event. 

This was supported by fMRI imaging; brain activity was the same for both sets of images in the first group, but different for emotional and non-emotional images in the second group. 

The study demonstrates that the so called 'emotional hangover' really does exist.       

Research paper: Emotional brain states carry over and enhance future memory formation