Posted: 11:56a.m. IST, June 22, 2012
London, June 22 (ANI): People can be trained to forget bad memories, according to a new research that could herald a breakthrough in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.
A study by psychologists at the University of St Andrews has revealed that individuals can be taught to forget the feelings that emotional memories arouse.
The important findings may present new potential for the treatment of people suffering from emotional disorders like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The research illustrated that although individuals could still accurately recall the cause of the event, they could be trained to forget the consequences and personal meaning associated with the memory.
The study was carried out by researchers Dr Saima Noreen and Professor Malcolm MacLeod of the University's School of Psychology.
The ability to remember and interpret emotional events from our personal past forms the basic foundation of who we are as individuals, the Daily Mail quoted lead author Dr Noreen as saying.
These novel findings show that individuals can be trained to not think about memories that have personal relevance and significance to them and provide the most direct evidence to date that we possess some kind of control over autobiographical memory, she said.
The research had participants generating emotional memories in response to generic cue words, such as theatre, barbecue, wildlife and so on.
Participants were asked to recall the cause of the event, the consequence of the event and the personal meaning they derived from the event.
Volunteers were then asked to provide a single word that was personal to them and which reminded them of that particular memory.
In a subsequent session, participants were shown the cue and personal word pairings and were asked to either recall the memory associated with the word pair or to abstain from thinking about the associated memory.
Interestingly, the findings revealed that while the entire autobiographical episode was not forgotten, the details associated with the memory were.
Specifically, individuals could remember what caused the event, but were able to forget what happened and how it made them feel.
The capacity to engage in this kind of intentional forgetting may be critical to our ability to maintain coherent images about who we are and what we are like, co-author Professor MacLeod added.
The research is published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition. (ANI)