Beliefnet
Ending Self-Sabotage

imagesDo you experience negative emotions, hatred toward people, fear, jealousy or other destructive states of mind? If so, you’ll be interested in discovering the research below that proves such negative states can be altered by the brain.

A new series of experiments have proven conclusively that there is a circuit in the brain that connects a person’s memories with their emotions.

Understanding how this circuit works, and whether it can be adjusted, is the cornerstone of new research that would change the way mental illnesses like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are treated by doctors, counselors and professional coaches.

A group of neuroscientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology conducted a series of ongoing experiments on mice to uncover the specific circuit of the brain that allows a memory to be recalled in either a negative or a positive light. Funded by the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the JPB Foundation, the experiments closely monitored two key areas of the brain.

The goal was to see if memories and their consequential emotional responses could be manipulated. The research paper was published in Nature, and revealed a detailed account of the systematic experiments.

The hippocampus, an area of the brain that becomes active when memories are being initiated, stores information from events in the hippocampal cells. However, the amygdala is the region of the brain that stores and retrieves the emotions associated with each event.

Neuroscientists were able to uncover the neuronal circuit that connects these two regions. When a memory is recalled, this specific neural circuit is triggered to connect the memory to the original emotion of the event.

Using a technique called optogenetics, which engages the use of light to alter neuron activity, the experiments successfully reversed the emotional associations with specific events in a group of mice. The pleasant events were recalled as fearful and the fearful events were recalled as pleasant.

The possibilities of this type of activity are a major breakthrough in treating memory associated mental health disorders. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression Anxiety and other mood disorders are just a few examples of disorders that would benefit from the ability to lessen the emotional impact of damaging memories.

While further study is required to fully understand the implications for human subjects, this research opens the door to a new way of studying how the brain’s memory connects with emotional responses.

This research is encouraging because most people have experienced negative events that shape their decisions. This can often lead to self-sabotage.

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