Larry Cahill

Professor, Neurobiology and Behavior
School of Biological Sciences

PH.D., University of California, Irvine, 1990

Phone: (949) 824-1937
Fax: (949) 824-2952

University of California, Irvine
116 Bonney Bldg (inner office)
Irvine, CA 92697-3800

picture of Larry  Cahill

Neural mechanisms of emotionally influenced memory, sex differences in brain
URL The Cahill Laboratory at the University of California, Irvine
Outstanding Professor in the School of Biological Sciences, 2005-6, 2007-8
"Selection is the very keel on which our mental ship is built. And in the case of memory its utility is obvious. If we remembered everything, we should on most occasions be as ill off as if we remembered nothing." - William James, Principles of Psychology, 1890

This quote by the great American psychologist neatly summarizes the main thrust of my research. Most neuroscientists interested in memory study what they hope prove to be neural mechanisms mediating the formation of memory- the "memory trace." Just as important, in my view, will be understanding mechanisms which regulate the actual information storage mechanisms. I assume that the brain must possess the means to "weight" information storage according to the importance of the information to be stored. Such mechanisms are required so the brain may "select," to borrow William James' term, information for storage.

My research focuses on neural mechanisms of memory formation for emotionally arousing events. Although in the past I have pursued this goal using both animal and human subject models, my current work involves only human subject studies. I employ neuropharmacological, neuropsychological, and brain imaging approaches in these studies. My 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, I have 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, our 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.
  Ferree, N., Wheeler, M., Cahill,L. (in press) The influence of emergency contraception on post-traumatic stress symptoms following sexual assault. Journal of Forensic Nursing,
  Cahill, L (in press) A Half Truth is a Whole Lie: on the Necessity of Investigating Sex influences on Brain Function. Neuroendocrinology.
  Ertman, N. , Andreano, J., and Cahill, L (2011) Progesterone at encoding predicts subsequent emotional memory. Learning and Memory, 18: 1-6.
  Nielsen, S., Ertman., N., Lakhani, Y., and Cahill L. (2011) Hormonal contraception usage is associated with altered memory for an emotional story. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 96: 378- 384.
  Cahill, L. (2010) Sex Influences on Brain and Emotional Memory: The Burden of Proof has Shifted. Progress in Brain Research (I. Savic, Ed) 186: 29-40.
  Andreano, J and Cahill, L (2010) Menstrual cycle modulation of medial temporal lobe activity evoked by negative emotion. Neuroimage 53: 1286-1293
  Jazin, E and Cahill, L. (2010) Sex Differences in Molecular Neuroscience: From Drosophila to Humans. Nature Neuroscience Reviews. 11: 9-17
  Andreano, J. and Cahill, L (2009) Sex Influences on the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. Learning and Memory. 16: 248-266.
  Segal, S. and Cahill, L. (2009) Endogenous noradrenergic activation and subsequent memory in men and women. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 34: 1263-1271.
  Ferree, N. and Cahill, L. (2009) Post-event spontaneous intrusive recollections and strength of memory for emotional events in men and women. Consciousness and Cognition. 18: 126-134
  Alkire, M., Gruver, R., Miller, J., McReynolds, J., Hahn, E. and Cahill., L. (2008) Neuroimaging analysis of an anesthetic gas that blocks human emotional memory. PNAS USA, 105: 1722-1727.
  Andreano, J.M. and Cahill, L. Glucocorticoid Release and Memory Consolidation in Men and Women. Psychological Science 17:466-70 (2006).
  Cahill, L. Why Sex Matters for Neuroscience. Nature Neuroscience Reviews. 7: 477-484. (2006).
  Kilpatrick, L. Zald, D.H., Pardo, J.V. and Cahill, L. Sex-related Differences in Amygdala Functional Connectivity during Resting Conditions. Neuroimage. 30: 452-461. (2006).
  Cahill, L. His Brain, Her Brain Scientific American. May 2005
  Ferree, N., Kamat, R. and Cahill, L. (2011) Influences of menstrual cycle position and sex hormone levels on spontaneous intrusive recollections following emotional stimuli. Consciousness and Cognition, 20: 1154-1162.
  Parker, E.S., Cahill, L., and McGaugh, J.L. A case of unusual autobiographical remembering. Neurocase. 12: 35-49. (2006)
  Cahill, L., Uncapher, M. Kilpatrick, L., Alkire, M. and Turner, J. Sex-Related Hemispheric Lateralization of Amygdala Function in Emotionally-Influenced Memory: An fMRI Investigation. Learning and Memory. (2004) 11: 261-266.
  Cahill, L., Gorski, L., Belcher, A. and Huynh, Q. A study of the influence of sex versus sex-related traits on long-term recall of gist and detail from an emotional story. Consciousness and Cognition. (2004) 13: 391-400.
  Kilpatrick, L and Cahill, L. Amygdala modulation of parahippocampal and frontal regions during emotionally influenced memory storage. Neuroimage. (2003) 20: 2091-2099.
  Cahill, L., Sex- and hemisphere-related influences on the neurobiology of emotionally influenced memory. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry. (2003) 27: 1235-1241.
  Cahill, L. and Alkire, M. Epinephrine enhancement of human memory consolidation: Interaction with arousal at encoding. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. (2003) 79: 194-198.
  Cahill, L. and van Stegeren, A. Sex-related impairment of memory for emotional events with ß-adrenergic blockade. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. (2003) 79:81-88.
  Cahill, L. and McGaugh, J.L. Mechanisms of emotional arousal and lasting declarative memory. Trends in Neurosciences (1998) 21:294-299.
  Cahill, L., Weinberger, N., Roozendaal, B., and McGaugh, J.L. Is the amygdala a locus of "conditioned fear?" Some questions and caveats. Neuron. (1999) 23:227-228.
Grant NIMH 57508 to LC
Organization for the Study of Sex Differences
Link to this profile
Last updated 12/12/2016