Differential effects of emotional cues on components of prospective memory: an ERP study

Cona G., Kliegel M., Bisiacchi P. S. (2015) Differential effects of emotional cues on components of prospective memory: an ERP study. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience


So far, little is known about the neurocognitive mechanisms associated with emotion effects on prospective memory (PM) performance. Thus, this study aimed at disentangling possible mechanisms for the effects of emotional valence of PM cues on the distinct phases composing PM by investigating event-related potentials (ERPs). Participants were engaged in an ongoing N-back task while being required to perform a PM task. The emotional valence of both the ongoing pictures and the PM cues was manipulated (pleasant, neutral, unpleasant). ERPs were recorded during the PM phases, such as encoding, maintenance, and retrieval of the intention. A recognition task including PM cues and ongoing stimuli was also performed at the end of the sessions. ERP results suggest that emotional PM cues not only trigger an automatic, bottom-up, capture of attention, but also boost a greater allocation of top-down processes. These processes seem to be recruited to hold attention toward the emotional stimuli and to retrieve the intention from memory, likely because of the motivational significance of the emotional stimuli. Moreover, pleasant PM cues seemed to modulate especially the prospective component, as revealed by changes in the amplitude of the ERP correlates of strategic monitoring as a function of the relevance of the valence for the PM task. Unpleasant pictures seemed to modulate especially the retrospective component, as revealed by the largest old/new effect being elicited by unpleasant PM pictures in the recognition task.

Keywords: prospective memory, emotion, ERPs, delayed intentions, LPP, event-related potentials, PLS, neural