For centuries, philosophical and clinical studies have emphasized a fundamental dichotomy between emotion and cognition, for instance between implicit/emotional memory and explicit/representative memory. However, in the last few decades, cognitive neuroscience has highlighted data indicating that emotion and cognition are in fact in close interaction and that reciprocal amygdalar-hippocampal influences underlie their mutual regulation. While supporting this view, the present chapter discusses experimental data indicating that the hippocampal and amygdalar systems not only regulate each other and their functional outcomes but also qualify specific emotional memory representations through specific activations and interactions. Specifically, we review consistent data unveiling a direct contribution of both the amygdala and septo-hippocampal system to the identification of the predictor of a threat in different situations of fear conditioning. Our suggestion is that these two brain systems and their interplay determine the selection of relevant emotional stimuli, thereby contributing to the adaptive value of emotional memory. Hence, beyond the mutual quantitative regulation of these two brain systems described so far, we propose that different configurations of the hippocampal-amygdalar network qualitatively impact the formation of memory representations, thereby producing either adaptive or maladaptive (e.g., PTSD-like) fear memories.
Part of the book: The Amygdala