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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2007, Article ID 60803, 33 pages
Review Article

The Temporal Dynamics Model of Emotional Memory Processing: A Synthesis on the Neurobiological Basis of Stress-Induced Amnesia, Flashbulb and Traumatic Memories, and the Yerkes-Dodson Law

1Medical Research Service, VA Hospital, Tampa 33612, FL, USA
2Department of Psychology, University of South Florida, Tampa 33620, FL, USA
3Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology, University of South Florida, Tampa 33612, FL, USA

Received 28 July 2006; Revised 18 December 2006; Accepted 20 December 2006

Academic Editor: Georges Chapouthier

Copyright © 2007 David M. Diamond et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


We have reviewed research on the effects of stress on LTP in the hippocampus, amygdala and prefrontal cortex (PFC) and present new findings which provide insight into how the attention and memory-related functions of these structures are influenced by strong emotionality. We have incorporated the stress-LTP findings into our “temporal dynamics” model, which provides a framework for understanding the neurobiological basis of flashbulb and traumatic memories, as well as stress-induced amnesia. An important feature of the model is the idea that endogenous mechanisms of plasticity in the hippocampus and amygdala are rapidly activated for a relatively short period of time by a strong emotional learning experience. Following this activational period, both structures undergo a state in which the induction of new plasticity is suppressed, which facilitates the memory consolidation process. We further propose that with the onset of strong emotionality, the hippocampus rapidly shifts from a “configural/cognitive map” mode to a “flashbulb memory” mode, which underlies the long-lasting, but fragmented, nature of traumatic memories. Finally, we have speculated on the significance of stress-LTP interactions in the context of the Yerkes-Dodson Law, a well-cited, but misunderstood, century-old principle which states that the relationship between arousal and behavioral performance can be linear or curvilinear, depending on the difficulty of the task.