The Neural Correlates of Memory for a Life-Threatening Event
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We investigated the neural correlates of remote traumatic reexperiencing in survivors of a life-threatening incident: the near crash of Air Transat (AT) Flight 236. Survivors' brain activity was monitored during video-cued recollection of the AT disaster, September 11th, 2001 (9/11), and a comparatively non-emotional (neutral) event. Passengers showed a robust memory enhancement effect for the AT incident relative to the 9/11 and neutral events. This traumatic memory enhancement was associated with activation in the amygdala, medial temporal lobe, anterior and posterior midline, and visual cortex in passengers. This brain-behavior relationship also held in relation to 9/11, which had elevated significance for passengers given its temporal proximity to the AT disaster. This pattern was not observed in a comparison group of non-traumatized individuals who were also scanned. These findings suggest that remote, traumatic memory is mediated by amygdalar activity, which likely enhances vividness via influences on hippocampal and ventral visual systems.