Data and methods Accepted project proposals Exploring the relationship between Amygdala: Hippocampus ratio and affective Memory Bias in Healthy Adults

Author: Indira Tendolkar

Affiliation(s): Radboud University

Keywords: Memory bias, amygdala, hippocampus, resilience, depression

Research question(s): 

  1. What kind of memory bias can be found in the HB sample?
    • We expect participants will endorse and recall more positive words, as opposed to negative ones. We also predict that the distribution of the negative memory bias will be skewed as seen in a previous study (Gerritsen et al., 2012).
  2. Is memory bias associated with amygdala and hippocampal volumes and the ratio between the two?
  3. Is there an association between memory bias and symptoms of anxiety and depression as measured at baseline?
    • We predict that larger negative memory bias scores will be associated with more symptoms of anxiety and depression as measured by the IDS and STS.
    • We expect individuals with negative memory bias to present more symptoms of anxiety and depression compared to those with a positive memory bias.
  4. Is there an association between memory bias and emotion regulation as measured at baseline by the Cognitive Emotion Regulation Questionnaire?
    • Higher positive memory bias scores will be correlated with higher scores of emotion regulation.
  5. What is the relationship between memory bias and childhood adversity?
    • We expect to replicate a relationship between frequency of adverse events during childhood and negative memory bias (Vrijsen et al., 2017)



What people remember has a profound impact on their well-being (Colombo et al., 2020). Individuals diagnosed with depression and other psychiatric disorders commonly present a negative memory bias (Duyser et al., 2020). This means that they preferentially remember negative emotional information over neutral or positive information. Possessing this affective memory bias puts one at risk of developing a psychiatric disorder, and at the same time contributes to its maintenance (Teasdale & Dent, 1987). Similarly, other studies have reported an association between structural and functional abnormalities in the amygdala and hippocampus with negative memory bias (Hamilton et al., 2008; Kark & Kensinger, 2019). However, the majority of these studies have been conducted with psychiatric patients, leaving the relationship between these variables unclear. In a previous study, with healthy university students, negative memory bias was associated with having a larger amygdala and smaller hippocampus and an even stronger association was found by considering the ratio between these two structures (Gerritsen et al., 2012). Hence, it would be interesting to investigate whether similar results can be obtained from a more diverse cohort of healthy adults from varied educational and socioeconomic backgrounds. Furthermore, a healthy sample provides an opportunity to delve into the factors associated with positive memory bias, something that has remained largely unexplored.

To that end, the current study seeks to explore memory bias in this group of healthy 30-year-olds and its relationship to the structure of the amygdala and hippocampus. At the same time, the influence of other variables such as childhood adversity, emotion regulation, as well as symptoms of depression and anxiety will be considered. All of this will be done in an attempt to elucidate potential markers of vulnerability and/or resilience to these mental health conditions.