Hidden In The Unconscious

Unconscious fear-related memories can remain totally hidden from your conscious mind, yet they still have the ability to dramatically affect everyday behavior and emotions. Luckily, groundbreaking new researchfrom Northwestern University has identified a specific brain mechanism that has the ability to hide traumatic memories in the brain—and also to retrieve them.

The Northwestern researchers led by Jelena Radulovic, MD/Phd, professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences and pharmacology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, found that a process known as “state-dependent” learning contributes to the formation of fear-related memories that are inaccessible through normal cognition and consciousness.

The August 2015 study, “GABAergic Mechanisms Regulated by miR-33 Encode State-Dependent Fear,” appears in the journal NatureNeuroscience. In a press release, Radulovic, who is the principal investigator described the study saying,

The findings show there are multiple pathways to storage of fear-inducing memories, and we identified an important one for fear-related memories. This could eventually lead to new treatments for patients with psychiatric disorders for whom conscious access to their traumatic memories is needed if they are to recover.

“State-dependent” memory implies that returning to the particular place, mindset, activity, or drug-induced state in which the memory was initially encoded may be the only way to access these subconscious memories and bring them into conscious awareness.

In many cases, traumatic or stressful experiences are buried from consciousness as a protective mechanism. Inadvertent or unexpected stimuli linked to the state-dependent memory can trigger acute flashbacks that are often the hallmark of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Researchers believe this process is a neural defense mechanism designed to protect the psyche of an individual from being incapacitated by fear-inducing memories. However, if suppressed memories aren’t coaxed out of hiding and brought to the surface, they often lead to debilitating psychological problems, such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, or dissociative disorders.

Adapted from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201508/unconscious-memories-hide-in-the-brain-can-be-retrieved

Excerpt from an article byChristopher Bergland.

 

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