You use more brain power when trying to forget something that when you remember it, according to researchers.
The new findings could help researchers offer better treatment options for people trying to get rid of unwanted memories. This study builds on previous research that focused on intentional forgetting. That means reducing attention to the unwanted memory by suppressing it.
"We may want to discard memories that trigger maladaptive responses, such as traumatic memories so that we can respond to new experiences in more adaptive ways," Jarrod Lewis-Peacock, an assistant professor at The University of Texas at Austin in the US, told a news portal. Adding, "Once we can figure out how memories are weakened and devise ways to control this, we can design treatment to help people rid themselves of unwanted memories."
Our brains are constantly forgetting and remembering information. This usually occurs while we are sleeping automatically. While previous studies focused on trying to locate the major spots of activity in the brain's control structures, this study focuses on the brain's sensory and perceptual areas. Researchers specifically examined the ventral temporal cortex that is linked to memory. "We are looking not at the source of attention in the brain, but the sight of it," Lewis-Peacock told a news portal.
For the study, the team tracked patterns of brain activity using neuroimaging by showing participants faces and images. The group was then asked to either remember or forget it.The results showed that humans do have the ability to forget memories if they want. However, "moderate levels" of brain activity in the sensory and perceptual areas was required in order to do so. "A moderate level of brain activity is critical to this forgetting mechanism. Too strong, and it will strengthen the memory; too weak, and you won't modify it," Tracy Wang, lead author of the study and a psychology postdoctoral fellow at UT Austin, told a news portal. Adding,"Importantly, it is the intention to forget that increases the activation of the memory, and when this activation hits the 'moderate level' sweet spot, that is when it leads to later forgetting of that experience."
Researchers hope to investigate this further in order to help people lead a healthier life and get rid of negative memories.
The study's findings were originally published in the Journal of Neuroscience.