Action boosts episodic memory encoding in humans via engagement of a noradrenergic system
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SourceNature Communications | (2019) 10:3534
We are constantly interacting with our environment whilst we encode memories. However, how actions influence memory formation remains poorly understood. Goal-directed movement engages the locus coeruleus (LC), the main source of noradrenaline in the brain. Noradrenaline is also known to enhance episodic encoding, suggesting that action could improve memory via LC engagement. Here we demonstrate, across seven experiments, that action (Go-response) enhances episodic encoding for stimuli unrelated to the action itself, compared to action inhibition (NoGo). Functional magnetic resonance imaging, and pupil diameter as a proxy measure for LC-noradrenaline transmission, indicate increased encodingrelated LC activity during action. A final experiment, replicated in two independent samples, confirmed a novel prediction derived from these data that emotionally aversive stimuli, which recruit the noradrenergic system, modulate the mnemonic advantage conferred by Go-responses relative to neutral stimuli. We therefore provide converging evidence that action boosts episodic memory encoding via a noradrenergic mechanism.