Emotional memories of a traumatic experience in life often persist in our minds. Now, researchers from The University of Queensland shed light on how we remember traumatic events.
The team found uncovered a cellular mechanism underlying the formation of emotional memories, which occurs in the presence of a well-known stress hormone.
They showed how noradrenaline, the brain's equivalent of adrenaline, affects amygdala- the brain area associated with emotions- by controlling chemical and electrical pathways in the brain responsible for memory formation.
"This is a new way of understanding how neurons form long term memories in the amygdala," said Dr Louise Faber, from Queensland Brain Institute (QBI).
Our strongest and most vivid human memories are usually associated with strong emotional events such as those associated with extreme fear, love and rage.
For many of us, our deepest memories are mental snapshots taken during times of high emotional impact or involvement, she said.
Some aspects of memory formation are incredibly robust - and the mechanism we've discovered opens another door in terms of understanding how these memories are formed, she added.
She said that the new discovery could help other scientists to elucidate new targets, leading to better treatments for conditions such as anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder.