Could holding your emotions in check actually poisoning your memory? According to a study out of Stanford University, when we hold back our emotions we are doing a lot of damage to our brains and our health, and the effects can be long-lasting.

Addicts and those affected with depression and other mental disorders commonly suppress their emotions. It affects their ability to remember, retain memories, and to memorize and learn.

Female undergraduate students were tested to find the answer to that question. They were shown slides of people who had different types of injuries – some slight and some very serious. They were then asked to react to the slides, or show no emotion at all. The results, published in The Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, showed that the degree of injury didn’t make any difference. If the emotions were suppressed the ability to retain memory was definitely affected, and not in a good way.

Drs. Jane Richards and James Gross, researchers in the study stated that changes in the cardiovascular system can still happen within the body that does not affect memory, while suppressing emotions. What does occur, they believe, is that an unrelated shift in the brain redirects the brain’s neurons away from memory processing.

There have been a number of studies that DO have a powerful impact on memory. Our brains tend to remember things we have had an emotional attachment to, and the memories are vivid – like the smell of a hot dogs at your first baseball game with your father; or the big holiday dinners at grandma’s when so many cooking odors were coming from the kitchen. These events are recalled with more clarity and detail than other events that have no emotional impact in our lives.

When you go to a party and meet a bunch of new people, which faces are you going to remember?  You remember the man who told the funniest jokes, or the woman who made you angry because she was rude to the waiter – the ones who had an emotional impact on you. Emotions and memory are very closely related.

The portion of the brain that makes up our emotions – the limbic system, is in charge of transferring information into memory.  After years of experiments and research scientists know the main location for this transfer is the hippocampus, a portion of the temporal lobe absolutely necessary for making new memories. The hippocampus is the first area of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease, and is known to be directly affected by estrogen levels (which may be why more women get Alzheimer’s than men.).

Our bodies have the ability to expel toxins on their own. The brain is not so fortunate. We can eliminate toxic thoughts by getting them “off our chests,” but when we keep them in we are holding in the toxins, and this affects your ability to memorize, learn and retain memory.  The best way to improve memory is to detox by finding a way to deal with them and purge them from our psyche.

Our emotions guide our memory, and that impact can be good or bad, but suppressing them is never positive!



About the author:

Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion and memory training expert. As a memory keynote speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life. His CDs and memory products are also available online at



Wikipedia: Emotion and Memory – Suppressing Emotions During Unpleasant Events May Affect Memory Recall –

Ezine: Holding Back Emotions Can Cause Anxiety, Depression And Insomnia – Journal Writing Can Help – Memory, Learning, and Emotion: the Hippocampus –