A study out of Stanford University confirms what neuroscientists have believed for a long time, bottling up emotions makes it harder for your to memorize or retain memories. It can actually poison you ability to make decisions, learn and perform certain functions.

Drs. Jane Richards and James Gross, researchers in the Stanford study, stated that although there are cardiovascular changes that occur in the body when emotions are suppressed, that is not what effects memory. They believe the brain’s neurons are being redirected away from the memory processing because of an unrelated shift in the brain during the emotional suppression.

Researchers used female undergraduate students as test studies. Slides of people who had sustained different types of injuries, from slight to very serious, were shown to them and they were asked to react to the slides as they normally would, or show no emotion at all.

Results were published in The Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, showing that the degree of injury to the victim didn’t make any difference, but if emotions were suppressed, the processing of information (cognition), especially when it came to short-term memory, was affected adversely.

Numerous studies have been conducted showing emotions actually have a powerful impact on our ability to remember. When we look back at our autobiographical memories (memories from our past) we recall the emotion that went along with that event, reliving it as if we were still experiencing it. We recall our grandmother’s kitchen at Christmas, with the smell of gingerbread permeating the house. We remember how much fun we had when dad took us to our first baseball game, and how great the hot dogs were! These are vivid memories that have stayed in our long-term files because of the emotions we felt, and the senses we took in. These are things we want to remember forever.

We can trace our emotional memory retention to our early ancestors. Our ancestors used trial and error as a way to find their way around in the world. Survival was dependent on remembering what could be used, and what was dangerous. Genetically, this “fight or flight” instinct became imbedded in all species, including human, and as we continue to evolve the instincts are retained in our gene cells and passed along through the generations.

What are the people we remember after our first introduction? They are the ones who brought forth some kind of an emotional response, such as making you laugh, or saying something that made you angry. An emotional impact is something you remember.

Emotions and memory are very closely related. The emotional portion of your brain, the limbic system, is in charge of transferring information into memory.  From years of experiments scientists now know that the main location for this transfer is a portion of the temporal lobe called the hippocampus, which is absolutely necessary for making new memories! The hippocampus is the area first affected by Alzheimer’s disease, and it is known to be directly affected by fluctuation in estrogen levels. This may account for why more women get Alzheimer’s than men.

The body has the ability to automatic eliminate toxins through its system. The brain itself is not so fortunate. By expressing toxic thoughts we purge our brains of the poison, by repressing these thoughts we build up the toxins that can block memory and the ability to learn. Our emotions guide our memory, and the impact can be good or bad, but by holding them in you will not be allowed to either release them or refer them on to long-term memory.

About the author:

Ron White is a memory training expert, and memory speaker. He speaks at seminars and to large groups all over the world on how to improve memory and memory techniques.



Wikipedia: Emotion and Memory – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotion_and_memory

memoryzin.com: Suppressing Emotions During Unpleasant Events May Affect Memory Recall – http://memoryzine.com/2010/08/

Ezine: Holding Back Emotions Can Cause Anxiety, Depression And Insomnia – Journal Writing Can Help – http://EzineArticles.com/1070941

Psycheducation.org: Memory, Learning, and Emotion: the Hippocampus – http://www.psycheducation.org/emotion/hippocampus.htm