Consolidating new memories requires the amygdala and


"We really don't know why people respond so differently to traumatic experiences," says Gregory J.Quirk, Ph D, who investigates the neuroscience of fear at University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine.Neural networks in the hippocampus busily begin building a map of the memory's context in the first few hours after an event, and related synaptic connections grow stronger in a process called long-term potentiation, consolidating the memory. "Whenever you're learning something, multiple corners of the brain are talking to each other to represent the sights and sounds and smells that you're learning," says Steve Ramirez, Ph D, a neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)."Yet the process of actually recalling a memory renders it susceptible to modification."It may be that the prefrontal cortex is less connected to the amygdala, so it can't say, ‘No, you're not in danger right now.'" Some scientists are trying to manipulate the reconsolidation process.Ramirez co-authored a 2014 study in which he and a team from RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics were able to change bad memories to good in male mice.



This emotional-arousal-activated neurobiological system thus seems to play an important adaptive role in insuring that the strength of our memories will reflect their emotional significance.[These memories] feel like a bona fide representation of the past, but memories are constantly modified with new information." Extinguishing the traumatic aspect of a memory involves creating new, safer mental associations to the same sensory cues.Even long-term memories, when recalled, have plasticity and the potential to be updated, an ability psychologists co-opt during exposure therapy, in which a patient faces his or her fears in a non-threatening environment in the hope of gaining control of them."We will use both biological and neurological measures to give us clues as to treatment." Though just beginning to plumb the brain's depths, scientists have formulated some theories on how our brains process fearful memories.

First, as we witness a scary event, the thalamus relays sensory information to the amygdala, which stamps the memory as emotionally significant and stores it for future use, to help us avoid related threats.

The research began with the finding that stimulant drugs enhanced memory in rats when administered shortly after training.



Consolidating new memories requires the amygdala and comments


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