Dr. Cahill is an Associate Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior at the University of California, Irvine. His research focuses on neural mechanisms of memory formation for emotionally arousing events. Although in the past he has pursued this goal using both animal and human subject models, his current work focuses primarily on human subject studies. He employs neuropharmacological, neuropsychological, and brain imaging approaches in these studies. Dr. Cahill’s research suggests that activation of beta-adrenergic receptors and the amygdala in humans are critical for enhanced conscious (“declarative”) memory associated with emotional arousal. For example, he has found that beta-adrenergic blockade in healthy humans selectively impairs long-term memory for emotionally arousing material. Patients with selective damage to the amygdala show a similar deficit. Furthermore, amnesic patients with intact amygdalae demonstrate enhanced memory for emotional material despite their overall impaired memory performance. Finally, human brain imaging studies are consistent with the neuropyschological findings in suggesting that amygdala activity in humans is selectively related to memory formation under conditions of emotional arousal. More recently, his work is showing that sex and cerebral hemisphere constitute twin, interacting influences on brain mechanisms of emotion and memory that can no longer be ignored.
Awards and Credentials
- Outstanding Professor in the School of Biological Sciences, 2005-2006; 2007-2008
Recommended Reading List
- Neuroimaging analysis of an anesthetic gas that blocks human emotional memory. Alkire, M., et al (2008) PNAS USA, 105: 1722-1727.
- Glucocorticoid Release and Memory Consolidation in Men and Women. Andreano, J.M. & Cahill, L. Psychological Science 17:466-70 (2006).
- Why Sex Matters for Neuroscience. Cahill, L. Nature Neuroscience Reviews. 7: 477-484. (2006).