Monday, February 09, 2015

always and everywhere - remember yourself...,


newyorker |  Within the brain, memories are formed and consolidated largely due to the help of a small seahorse-like structure called the hippocampus; damage the hippocampus, and you damage the ability to form lasting recollections. The hippocampus is located next to a small almond-shaped structure that is central to the encoding of emotion, the amygdala. Damage that, and basic responses such as fear, arousal, and excitement disappear or become muted.

A key element of emotional-memory formation is the direct line of communication between the amygdala and the visual cortex. That close connection, Phelps has shown, helps the amygdala, in a sense, tell our eyes to pay closer attention at moments of heightened emotion. So we look carefully, we study, and we stare—giving the hippocampus a richer set of inputs to work with. At these moments of arousal, the amygdala may also signal to the hippocampus that it needs to pay special attention to encoding this particular moment. These three parts of the brain work together to insure that we firmly encode memories at times of heightened arousal, which is why emotional memories are stronger and more precise than other, less striking ones. We don’t really remember an uneventful day the way that we remember a fight or a first kiss. In one study, Phelps tested this notion in her lab, showing people a series of images, some provoking negative emotions, and some neutral. An hour later, she and her colleagues tested their recall for each scene. Memory for the emotional scenes was significantly higher, and the vividness of the recollection was significantly greater.