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Another piece of the memory puzzle was discovered at the University of Haifa

Remembering emotions differently: memories caused by emotional stimulation are formed in a different way in the brain than memories that are not caused by emotional stimulation * The findings are presented today at a conference at the University of Haifa

the brain. Free image from the website
the brain. Free image from the website

A new study conducted at the University of Haifa found that memories caused by emotional stimulation are created in the brain in a different way than memories that are not created by emotional stimulation, and in fact it is a memory with different characteristics from a "normal" memory. The innovative discovery can shed new light on the field of treating phobias and traumas caused by emotional stimulation. The findings of the full study will be presented in a panel on "Neuroscience and Emotions" that will be delivered at the first conference of the Israeli Forum for the Study of Emotions which will be held Sunday-Monday (May 11-12) at the University of Haifa.

From previous studies on the subject of memory formation, it is known that an emotional meaning to some experience - an emotion - is one of the reasons for the formation of a memory, but until now it was not known if there are unique mechanisms for the formation of an "emotional" memory, and if so, what they are. In the first part of the study, the researchers sought to answer this question. To this end, they tested the ability of rats to learn a certain action - once with emotional stimulation and another time without such stimulation.

The rats were placed in a pool full of water with a platform set up in one corner of the pool, so the rats could not see it. The rats had to learn that when they reach the platform they are taken out of the water. Another group of rats had to learn the same task, but the temperature of the water was slightly colder, which created an emotional learning effect. Since the findings showed that both groups learned the task equally efficiently, the researchers expected to see an identical picture in the two areas responsible for memory creation: the amygdala and the hippocampus. "We discovered that compared to the rats that underwent a normal learning process, in the rats in the emotional learning group the amygdala was activated more, while the hippocampus was less activated. "Since it appeared on the surface that the rats in both groups learned at the same level, but other mechanisms were active in both processes, the possibility arose that the quality of the memory formed was different in the two conditions," explains Prof. Gal Richter Levin from the University of Haifa, who led the study.

From an analysis of the findings, the researchers discovered that at the neuro-brain level, two sub-regions of the hippocampus, which are generally considered to have the same characteristics, behave differently. The researchers wanted to know if there are also differences in the "quality" of the memories created in the different situations. Therefore, the "quality" of the memory was tested in two parameters: the resistance of the memory to disturbances and the length of time it takes for the memory to be established. To this end, half of the rats that learned the platform task without emotional stimulation and half of the rats that learned the task with emotional stimulation were taken and put one hour later into a pool where the platform was placed in a different place, so that an interference with the establishment of the previous memory was created.

Three days later the rats were tested in the first platform task. The findings showed that the rats in the group whose learning was emotional and did not undergo a disruption remembered the location of the platform very quickly, followed by the rats from the group that underwent normal learning without disruption, then the rats that underwent normal learning with a disruption and finally the rats that underwent emotional learning with a disruption. According to Prof. Richter Levin, the conclusion is that the emotional memory is more vulnerable to disturbances, but if it is not hindered from establishing itself, then it is a stronger memory.

"The immediate impact is on educational systems. Study sets based on emotional arousal - positive or negative - created quick but less detailed memories. Therefore, before choosing to teach with the help of rewards or punishments, you should think about what type of memory you want to achieve. On a biological level, the fact that we have now found that emotional memories are different from normal memories can help treat problems that arise from traumatic memories, such as various phobias. If until now we feared that treatment of the traumatic memory could damage all of our memories, today we know that it will be possible to treat these areas without erasing our memory at all", Prof. Richter-Levin concluded.

The first conference of the Israeli Forum for the Study of Emotions, which includes researchers from the University of Haifa and the Technion, is currently being held at the University of Haifa on Sunday-Monday (May 11-12.5). Among the topics discussed at the conference: emotions in medicine; neuropsychology of emotions; emotions in history; the socio-organizational psychology of emotions; New paths in the study of emotional disorders; emotions in organizations; emotions in religion; emotions in animals; feelings and relationships; New angles in the study of loss and bereavement in Israel and more.

One response

  1. It also happens with us - under the carpet, the sofa, etc., sometimes the child just sits on it.

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