Vivid memories retain freshness over decades

August 21st, 2012 - 3:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Aug 21 (IANS) Do you recall memories from long ago as if they happened yesterday, yet you can’t think of what you ate for dinner last night? It’s a case of the brain capturing emotionally arousing memories but not the mundane, says a new study.

“We’ve discovered that we see things that are emotionally arousing with greater clarity than those that are more mundane,” says Rebecca Todd, a postdoctoral fellow in psychology at the University of Toronto, who led the study.

“Whether they’re positive - for example, a first kiss, the birth of a child, winning an award - or negative, such as traumatic events, break-ups, or a painful and humiliating childhood moment that we all carry with us, the effect is the same,” says Todd, the Journal of Neuroscience reports.

“What’s more, we found that how vividly we perceive something in the first place predicts how vividly we will remember it later on. We call this ‘emotionally enhanced vividness’ and it is like the flash of a bulb that illuminates an event as it’s captured for memory,” says Todd, according to a Toronto statement.

By studying brain activity, Todd, Adam Anderson psychology professor and other colleagues at Toronto, along with the University of Manchester, and University of California, San Diego, found amygdala, the brain part responsible for tagging the emotional or motivational importance of things according to past experiences, is more active when looking at images that are rated as vivid.

“The experience of more vivid perception of emotionally important images seems to come from a combination of enhanced seeing and gut feeling driven by amygdala calculations of how emotionally arousing an event is,” says Todd.

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