Friday, 13 Jul, 2007 Science

Bad Memories Can Be Suppressed If Only You Really Want It


A new study suggests that memories especially highly emotional and stressful ones are easy to forget if you simply decide to do so.

Researchers from University of Colorado at Boulder studied the mechanism of pushing aside memories on negative emotions to develop a therapy helping people suffering from post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety and various fears. Several experiments were conducted while participants were learned to suppress their negative memories.

Brendan Depue, CU-Boulder doctoral candidate, who lead the research, said that study showed that people can deal with bad memories on their own practicing mental control over and over again.

All the participants were asked to remember 40 different pairs of pictures with faces expressing variety of emotions from neutral ones to highly emotional, like showing crime scenes or car incident. While the pictures were shown, the participants were given a task either to keep in mind the image with the face expressing one of the emotions or not. During the learning process, brain scans of the volunteers showed that two regions of prefrontal cortex were working to block brain areas that are responsible for visual memorizing, memory encoding and emotional response.

Scientists say that these findings indicate one thing- we are able to control negative emotions and thus forget what we don't want to remember.

Mr.Depue said that the ability to block memory is an evolutionary trait that is a safeguard to our survival. However, highly traumatic experience like car accident are hard to forget, a person is still able to teach himself or herself to push aside these memories, though requiring thousands of times repeating the exercise to forget the incident.

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