Memories are wonderful little windows into the past that are of immense importance to all of us. But sometimes, a memory isn’t good and can be a source of pain. In such cases, one wishes to forget such memories but the trouble is that doing so isn’t easy at all. Now, a team of researchers might have found a way to eradicate painful memories by changing how one thinks about the “context” surrounding a certain memory.
The study included a team of researchers from Princeton University and Dartmouth College. Those who volunteered for the research were asked to memorize or forget a list of words. To make sure that the volunteers had a context with the words they were told to memorize, they were shown pictures of landscapes in between the words. During this whole exercise, the researchers measured the brain activity of the subjects using fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and made a note of the neural patterns that occurred.
Later, the volunteers were asked to recall the words on the list while their brain activity was being monitored using fMRI. What researchers found was the same neural patterns that they observed during the initial phase of experiment showing that the brain had intertwined the context (pictures of landscapes) and the memory (the words on the list). Those who failed to recall the list didn’t have the same neural patterns which were observed in the first phase.
The team is hopeful that their research will not only pave way for new researches on similar lines but will also help develop new memory therapies that will help those who have experienced traumatic events in the past or suffer from PTSD.
Understanding how the brain works, how the memories are created and retained in the brain is the first step to diagnosing and treating brain diseases that can have a crippling effect.