Why Painful Memories Linger
By: Christopher Wanjek
Published: 12/11/2014 10:12 AM EST on LiveScience
Memories of traumatic events can be hard to shake, and now scientists say they understand why. Studies on laboratory rats have revealed, for the first time, the brain mechanism that translates unpleasant experiences into long-lasting memories.
The findings support a 65-year-old hypothesis called Hebbian plasticity. This idea states that in the face of trauma, such as watching a dog sink its teeth into your leg, more neurons in the brain fire electrical impulses in unison and make stronger connections to each other than under normal situations. Stronger connections make stronger memories.
The new findings are not only an important advance in researchers’ understanding of how Hebbian plasticity works, but they also may lead to treatments to help patients forget horrible memories, such as those associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The study, by researchers at New York University and Japan’s RIKEN Brain Science Institute, appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [Why You Forget: 5 Strange Facts About Memory]
Hebbian plasticity, the thinking goes, works when a brain region called the amygdala allows sensory stimuli to become associated with either —> Read More Here