The human brain is an incredibly complex organ. I like to think that our medical science is really advanced compared to past times, and it is. But, our current understanding of the human brain is still quite simple.
There is a whole lot about the brain that our scientists have no idea about. But day by day, scientists are discovering new things about the supercomputer that resides in our head. And very recently, a study seemed to indicate that idea of an emotional hangover, which is if and how previous emotional experiences effect our memories of those experiences, is legitimate.
The list of factors that can disrupt our memory of events keeps growing and now we can add the experiences themselves to that list.
Details of the Study of Emotional Hangover
When your emotions are running wild during an event, it can drastically shape how you remember the event. At least, that was the thought that prompted a group of researchers to conduct a study on it. The researchers wanted to see if there was a scientific explanation for it or if it was just an unexplained phenomenon or if it was even a legitimate concept at all.
The study consisted of a group of participants. The researchers compiled a bunch of emotional scene pictures for the participants to look at. About a half an hour later, the group of participants was split up into two groups – the first group which were told to look at regular pictures of various scenes that were not meant to elicit any emotional response.
The other group was told to look at those same non-emotional pictures. After looking at those pictures, however, the second group also had to look at pictures of scenes that would elicit an emotional response, much like the pictures that the entire group of participants had to look at a half an hour earlier.
The researchers recorded emotional arousal using conductance of the skin and also recorded brain activity via fMRI. The study concluded six hours later when all of the participants were given a memory assessment of the pictures that they looked at earlier.
What Were the Findings of the Study?
The study found that the group that had to look at the pictures that triggered an emotional response had a better ability to remember the non-emotional pictures that they looked at after. The other group that had to look at the non-emotional pictures before the emotional pictures had a harder time remembering those pictures.
This shows that emotional experiences do impact our ability to remember events in our lives. Even if other events are not as memorable, the fact that a recent event did emotionally stimulate our minds is enough to improve our memory of any events that happen after. I am not sure if emotional hangover is the right for this effect though, as a hangover is generally considered a bad thing.
I do not quite think that these findings or this effect is negative. Although, it can be negative since the emotional experience may lead to us remember other events more fondly than they actually happened. This can be a good or bad thing – depending on the event.
Why is This a Big Deal?
Previously, it was only known that outside forces could impact our brain’s ability to retain memory of events. It turns out that forces inside our own mind also impact our ability to remember events – internal forces such as our emotional state of mind.
And remember that the participants had to take the memory assessment a whole six hours after looking at the pictures. This indicates that the emotional state of minds is not something that goes away quickly. It sticks around and impacts how we remember events as we go through our day to day lives.
The leader goes on to state the obvious (considering the results) that events that do not elicit much of an emotional response are far easier to remember if they occur after going through an emotional experience.
What’s more is that your emotional state of mind not only impacts how you remember events and experiences. It also impacts how you view the world and how you choose to live your life. Of course, there are other factors that help influence those, just as is the case with your memory. But, it is quite interesting to know that internal forces dictate it as well.
Emotional Hangover Conclusion
This very interesting study put a popular theory to the test and found that it was more than just a trendy concept. The study looked at the results of emotional stimulation on someone’s ability to recall events and showed a connection between emotional experiences and improved memory retention.
I am hoping that the findings of this study prompt more studies to look at this phenomenon to pinpoint exactly how a person can manipulate it to help with various health problems.
Imagine being able to stave off depression by having one good experience and being able to have that impact the entire way you think and live your life. Depression would be all but eliminated! Okay, perhaps I am getting ahead of myself there, but still.
It is an interesting concept. I would imagine that this kind of data would be important to help those suffering from neurodegenerative disorders that cause memory retention to tank, such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Although, a lot more research would need to be done. Again I may be getting ahead of myself and I apologize about this.
I believe that the results of this study caused me to have a highly emotional experience that will impact how I think for a while. And that is another thing that other studies need to be done to figure out. Just how long do these emotional experiences linger and impact our emotional state of mind for?
So many doors have been opened due to the findings of this study as we continue to further our understanding of the highly complex and mysterious human brain. What will we find out next?