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Effects of emotional ‘hangover’ stay for longer period than we thought

Emotion is a state of mind. Any emotional experience, good or bad, stays with us for much longer a period than we usually imagine, says a new study.

sex and relationships Updated: Dec 28, 2016 13:23 IST
New York
Happy,Sad,Emotional hangover
Social support is important for recovery from depression. (Shutterstock photo)

Researchers have found that experiencing emotional events -- whether happy or painful -- may cause hangovers that can persist for a long period of time. These hangovers could continue after the events have ended and even affect future experiences, the study found.

“Emotion is a state of mind. These findings make clear that our cognition is highly influenced by preceding experiences and, specifically, that emotional brain states can persist for long periods of time,” said Lila Davachi, Associate Professor at New York University (NYU).

The study also shows that emotional hangover, which also induces physiological and internal brain states, influences how we attend to and remember future experiences.

“How we remember events is not just a consequence of the external world we experience, but is also strongly influenced by our internal states -- and these internal states can persist and colour future experiences,” Davachi added.

Previously it was known that emotional experiences are better remembered than non-emotional ones.

However, the new study demonstrates that non-emotional experiences that followed emotional ones were also better remembered on a later memory test.

For the study, the team scanned the brains of people while they viewed an image that stirred them up emotionally and then they viewed a neutral image about 12 to 30 minutes later.

Previously it was known that emotional experiences are better remembered than non-emotional ones. ( Shutterstock )

When administered a memory test six hours later, the participants who were exposed to the emotion-evoking stimuli first had better long-term recall of the neutral images subsequently presented compared to the group who were exposed to the same neutral images first, before the emotional images.

Specifically, it was found that the brain states associated with emotional experiences carried over for 20 to 30 minutes and influenced the way the subjects processed and remembered future experiences that are not emotional.

“We see that memory for non-emotional experiences is better if they are encountered after an emotional event,” Davachi observed.

The study appears in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

First Published: Dec 28, 2016 13:20 IST