May 11, 2022

The Brain Has a Built-in System to Keep Unwanted Memories Out, Study Finds

Posted by in category: neuroscience

A new study in the Journal of Neuroscience has some answers. By scanning the brains of 24 people actively suppressing a particular memory, the team found a neural circuit that detects, inhibits, and eventually erodes intrusive memories.

A trio of brain structures makes up this alarm system. At the heart is the dACC (for “dorsal anterior cingulate cortex”), a scarf-like structure that wraps around deeper brain regions near the forehead. It acts like an intelligence agency: it monitors neural circuits for intrusive memories, and upon discovery, alerts the “executive” region of the brain. The executive then sends out an abort signal to the brain’s memory center, the hippocampus. Like an emergency stop button, this stops the hippocampus from retrieving the memory.

The entire process happens below our consciousness, suppressing unwanted memories so that they never surface to awareness.

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