Re-writing bad memories

A growing army of researchers have marshaled a pile of data to argue that we can alter the emotional impact of a memory by adding new information to it or recalling it in a different context.imgres-1

This hypothesis challenges 100 years of neuroscience and overturns cultural touchstones from Marcel Proust to best-selling memoirs. MIT TechnologyReview reports: “It changes how we think about the permanence of memory and identity, and it suggests radical nonpharmacological approaches to treating pathologies like post-traumatic stress disorder, other fear-based anxiety disorders, and even addictive behaviors.

“In a landmark 2010 paper in Nature, Daniela Schiller (then a postdoc at New York University) and her NYU colleagues, including Joseph E. LeDoux and Elizabeth A. Phelps, published the results of human experiments indicating that memories are reshaped and rewritten every time we recall an event. And, the research suggested, if mitigating information about a traumatic or unhappy event is introduced within a narrow window of opportunity after its recall—during the few hours it takes for the brain to rebuild the memory in the biological brick and mortar of molecules—the emotional experience of the memory can essentially be rewritten.

“When you affect emotional memory, you don’t affect the content,” Schiller explains. “You still remember perfectly. You just don’t have the emotional memory.” Continue reading “Re-writing bad memories”