A new research has shed light on how fear burns memories into our brains. Daniela Kaufer and colleagues from University of California, Berkeley, reported a new way for emotions to affect memory: The brain's emotional center, the amygdala, induces the hippocampus, a relay hub for memory, to generate new neurons.
In a fearful situation, these newborn neurons get activated by the amygdala and may provide a "blank slate" to strongly imprint the new fearful memory, she said. In evolutionary terms, it means new neurons are likely helping you to remember the lion that nearly killed you.
"We remember emotional events much more strongly than daily experiences, and for a long time we have known that connections between the amygdala and hippocampus help to encode this emotional information," said Kaufer, an assistant professor of integrative biology and a member of UC Berkeley's Wills Neuroscience Institute.
"Our research shows that amygdala input actually pushes the hippocampus to make new neurons from a unique population of neural stem cells. This provides completely new cells that get activated in response to emotional input."
The finding has implications for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other problems caused by faulty regulation of emotional memory.
The study will be published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.