Study examines why the memory of fear is seared into our brains
Published in Brain/Neurology.
Experiencing a frightening event is likely something you’ll never forget. But why does it stay with you when other kinds of occurrences become increasingly difficult to recall with the passage of time?
A team of neuroscientists from the Tulane University School of Science and Engineering and Tufts University School of Medicine have been studying the formation of fear memories in the emotional hub of the brain — the amygdala — and think they have a mechanism.
In a nutshell, the researchers found that the stress neurotransmitter norepinephrine, also known as noradrenaline, facilitates fear processing in the brain by stimulating a certain population of inhibitory neurons in the amygdala to generate a repetitive bursting pattern of electrical discharges. This bursting pattern of electrical activity changes the frequency of brain wave oscillation in the amygdala from a resting state to an aroused state that promotes the formation of fear memories.