Traumatic memories

An article in the New Scientist reports on a research project about how we might be genetically predisposed to remember intense experiences.

Highly emotive incidents trigger the brain to release the hormone and neurotransmitter noradrenaline.This stimulates the amygdala – part of the brain involved with processing emotional reactions – to store memories in the hippocampus and other parts of the brain, says Dominique de Quervain, a neuroscientist at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.

However how you recall emotionally charged memories (both good and bad) varies a lot from person to person. There is a common variation in the gene which influences how sensitive your brain is to noradrenaline, 30% of Caucasians and 12% of Africans have this variation.

In an experiment involving Swiss citizens and survivors of the Rwandan genocide he found that people with the genetic variation had a far higher recall of negative emotional events.

“The genetic variant is related to enhanced emotional memory,”
concludes de Quervain. “But it also appears to predispose people to
stronger traumatic memories when something terrible happens.”

These results may go some way towards answering why some people are much more traumatised by events than others.

Knowing how it happens is one thing, knowing what to do about it is something else. I look forward to the day I can review an article about the effectiveness of EFT or NLP in reducing the impact of trauma.

Emotional recall is in your genes – 29 July 2007 – New Scientist

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