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Jan 30, 2009

According to a new study, we learn to recall our negative memories more rationally as we age. That way, every trip down memory lane doesn’t turn into an emotional roller coaster ride.

By FLYP Staff

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Though the idea that “time heals all wounds” may be a bit of an oversimplification, a new study published in the journal, Psychological Science, shows that one thing time definitely does do is lessen the emotional impact of negative memories.
It’s widely accepted that emotion enhances memory in young adults. To determine if this is true for older adults as well, researchers conducted a study to find out what parts of the brain are active in people of different ages when they formulate negative memories.
For the study, researches showed 180 pictures to two groups—one consisting of 15 women in their 20s, the other of 15 women over the age of 65.
Using a functional MRI—a scanning device that charts neural activity in different parts of the brain—researchers were able to record which brain areas were active as members of the two groups rated the images as emotionally positive, negative or neutral.
After a break of half an hour, the subjects were then tested on their ability to recall the pictures.
According to the brain scans, the older subjects processed the negative pictures using parts of the brain associated with rational thinking, while the younger subjects processed them in areas associated with feelings.
This wasn’t an indication of any sort of age-based decline in mental capacity. Instead, it suggests the negative memories of older subjects are less emotionally charged than those of the younger subjects.
Chances are, this less emotional approach and greater ability to control these memories that comes with age allows older adults to better manage how much they respond to these memories. So instead of the memory controlling the person, the person can control the memory.


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