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A news release got me to thinking about my Remaking project again.  I said that I wanted to put off more writing on the topic because it required that I remember times that were unpleasant.  About 6 years ago, I tried explaining to someone the difficulty in remembering some periods of my life.  That explanation made it 4 years ago into my webpage about emotions and intensity.  In my words:

"[My feelings] are not a continuous rainbow of familiar light beaming upon a fragrant hillside, something that can be grown accustomed to. They are scattered rays of brilliance punctuating a foggy landscape, each one astonishing and unexpected. They are strong, and they are awkward, but I learn to survive with them anyway... When I find a new emotion, I mark the location of that "spotlight" on a mental map. I try to give it an appropriate emotion-name. When I remember the experience that first led me to that emotion, I seem to walk back to that place on the map, stepping into the spotlight again, feeling the emotion again. Remembering significant episodes of my life is sometimes difficult because the emotion may return with the same intensity as I initially experienced."
Some researchers have been studying emotions, memory, and forgetfulness.  They recently found that a particular chemical, propranolol, can erase the fearful trauma component from a memory.  Among the discussion about their research:

"In recent years, scientists have discovered that the simple act of remembering a past experience requires that the memory be consolidated once again. And both animal research and some human studies have shown that during reconsolidation, long-term memories-- once thought to be fairly stable--can be more easily meddled with."

By "reconsolidation" they mean taken from active experience and put back into long-term storage in the brain.  I knew about the re-experience issue, but the manipulative quality is not something that I'd directly achieved myself.  (I have tried.  What I succeed in doing is probably a lot more complicated but also less specific.)  They also mention that the amygdala, which is a point of study among autism researchers, is used to store emotional memories.  Their chemical seems to prevent the amygdala from storing or re-storing active experiences into memories, hence they can prevent a person from recalling the emotional component from a memory since the emotion is never stored.  There are other components of the experience that are successfully recalled by other areas of the brain. It's only the emotion that is forgotten, not the experience itself.  They think this technique might be especially useful in treating soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder.

Me, well, I'm going to delay a little while longer before continuing the Remaking monologue.  Once my stress level is at a minimum, then even remembering will still be an easily managed disruption.

Some things you might like

Date: 2009-02-18 02:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Two podcasts from WNYC's Radiolab show: Memory & Forgetting (, and Choice ( The latter I found especially compelling, in it's story about a man who lost his emotions, but then found he could no longer make decisions...


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