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Author Topic: What happens in your brain.. that makes one block out horrific memories?  (Read 6177 times)

Karen W.

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 I was thinking about this.. because over the last few years I have been dealing with memories surfacing from my childhood and some new stimuli over the last few months which have brought old buried memories back to surface and  brought out old fears I thought Were gone.

So what is it that happens in in the physical and scientific explanation when someone goes through very traumatic events and due to inability to handle them they block them out? Why is it that I can't remember everything at once and that certain events or even someone saying something just right brings in a flood of emotions and I find myself in a cold sweat and panicked. Is there some process by which the brain actually shuts certain areas off and how does that happen???
« Last Edit: 12/02/2008 00:14:02 by Karen W. »

DoctorBeaver

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Ooh... ooh... I know, Miss! 

It's all to do with increased activation of the left and right frontal cortex, which in turn leads to reduced activation of the hippocampus.

Karen W.

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ok, now can you translate that lovely scintific statement into laymens terms?

DoctorBeaver

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The hippocampus is the part of the brain used to remember experiences (It does other things too. In fact, it's a very busy little bit). The left & right frontal cortexes are the bits that help suppress memories. So, increased activity in the suppressy bits causes less activity in the remembery bits, so bits get forgottenified.

Anderson and Gabrieli (2004) used brain scanning techniques (fMRI) to map brain activity in subjects who were given random word pairs to remember.

The researchers randomly divided 36 word pairs into three sets of 12. In the first set, the subjects were asked to look at the first word in the pair and think about the second word. In the second set, they were asked to look at the first word of the pair and not think of the second word. The third set of 12 word pairs served as a baseline and was not used during the brain scanning part of the experiment. The subjects were given four seconds to look at the first word of each pair 16 times during a 30-minute period.

After the scanning finished, the subjects were re-tested on all the word pairs. It was found that the participants remembered fewer of the word pairs they had actively tried to not think of than the baseline pairs, even though they had not been exposed to the baseline group for a half-hour.
« Last Edit: 12/02/2008 08:46:18 by DoctorBeaver »

Karen W.

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Ok, so say I  have been trying to avoid thinking about certain memories events really, so in so doing when I was young is that why a lot of the memories were supressed? So if I were to try really hard to just not think about any of those things, could I stop the flashbacks?

I have spent the last many years trying to come to terms with certain things in my life and still after two very intense years of  work and many more years since then on my own, I still experience very intense, memory flashbacks if you will, when something, someone or sound or smell sends them back as if it had just happned all over again.

So if  I try not to remember will they still jump out at me when  least expect it?

DoctorBeaver

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That's a difficult 1.

Normally, if a memory isn't thought about for a long time, it gets forgotten; although "forgotten" is an ill-used term. It does not mean that something completely disappears from memory (although brain trauma can cause that to happen), merely that it becomes harder to recall.

I differentiate between memory & recall. It's often said that so-and-so has a good memory. In truth, what we should say is that so-and-so demonstrates above-average powers of recall. I think this difference must be noted as without it there could be no such thing as suppressed memories.

However, I should actually say "so-and-so demonstrates above-average powers of recall to his conscious mind" as memories can affect our subconscious also. That is when suppressed memories can become a problem. If a memory is locked away and never rears its ugly head, it can do no damage. But if that memory doesn't come to the conscious mind, merely tickles the subconscious, it can cause strange and, seemingly, inexplicable effects.

How a memory can be locked safely away is something I cannot answer. Not thinking about it will simply push it further from the conscious mind but will not necessarily prevent it playing havoc with the subconscious. Potentially dangerous memories are often better brought to the surface so that they can be handled consciously. However, techniques for doing that are sometimes a bit dubious and the possibility of False Memory Syndrome must be considered.
« Last Edit: 12/02/2008 23:02:38 by DoctorBeaver »

Karen W.

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WELL.. I GUESS i BE STILL IN A BIT OF A PICKLE! I WANT TO FIX THEN BUT WANT THEM TO GO AWAY AND LEAVE ME BE AT THE SAME TIME..

Sorry It was a double loaded question which I was not sure on how to ask.. Thanks Doc..

I remember much of the things but still there were many many years of abuse and sometimes certain little things pop up and really nail me.. Makes one feel really unsafe.. and a bit shaky.. even though I know Now is Now and then was then..

DoctorBeaver

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I'm not a clinical psychologist so I am unable to offer any concrete advice.

rosalind dna

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Whenever I have had an epileptic seizure then I seem to lose more of my
memory because as I've read that the hippocampus' cells are damaged as the Hippocampus is part of the Forebrain and it stores the main parts of our cognitive (every day) memories. So with the amount of seizures that I've had
in several decades but my childhood and teenage memories are returning more
vividly quite often now. It could be my age. I don't think so.

(wiki referenced)
Although there is a lack of consensus relating to terms describing the hippocampus and the adjacent cerebral cortex, the term hippocampal formation generally applies to the dentate gyrus, the Cornu Ammonis fields CA1-CA3 (and CA4, frequently called the hilus and considered part of the dentate gyrus), and the subiculum. The CA1, CA2 and CA3 fields make up the hippocampus proper.

Information flow through the hippocampus proceeds from the dentate gyrus to CA3 to CA1 to the subiculum, with additional input information at each stage and outputs at each of the two final stages. CA2 represents only a very small portion of the hippocampus and its presence is often ignored in accounts of hippocampal function, though it is notable that this small region seems unusually resistant to conditions that usually cause large amounts of cellular damage, such as epilepsy.

 

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