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Read: Gain a Better Perspective of How Emotions Affect Memory

How Do Emotions Affect Memory
The human brain is a fascinating organ where its labyrinthine structure has secret passages that scientists are still trying to uncover. We find out in particular how memory influences the way we store, dismiss and retrieve information based on how we feel.
Naomi Sarah
Last Updated: Mar 13, 2018
The brain is an organ which is forever developing, processing and collecting information as time lapses, forming memories both good and bad, and those out of habitual routines that we enact everyday. Research shows that what we feel when experiencing an event, has more to do with remembering it, even if it was insignificant or worth remembering. We may not realize it, but everyday we are forming new memories, discarding old ones and recollecting those that we thought we'd never see so clearly in our mind's eye. To gain a better perspective of the link between emotion and memory and their dependence on each other, we dig deeper into how these two correlate.
How Emotions Affect Our Memories
There are varied factors that come into play when considering the case of how emotions affect our memories. Let's first draw an outline on how an emotion controls our memory, as and when a scenario presents itself.
  1. The age of a person greatly influences how we treat our memory intake, where adolescents and the young tend to remember negative memories, more than the positive ones. As one ages, he/she has a better understanding of how to latch on to information, therefore releasing negative memory intake, and storing that which is positive. The conclusion drawn here is that older people have a better way of controlling their emotions, therefore taking in negative data in smaller doses as compared to the young.
  2. Depending on how you feel during the time when the situation presents itself, the better your chances of saving the memory that is being created.
  3. Good memories, or those with feelings of a frequency that runs on a positive high note, are better remembered when it comes to retrieving the nitty-gritty details.
  4. Even events where emotions are running high on negative vibes, are better remembered because of the intensity of the situation when it occurred. The details may be fuzzy later on, but if the impact was major (death of a loved one/near-death experience/sexual or substance abuse etc.), the details are either stored in its entirety, or buried in one's suppressed memory vault.
  5. Different memory areas are influenced depending on one's mood, which is another major instigator when it comes to an event before it is saved as a memory. When one is in the same mood as when the event was experienced, when it comes to recalling it - the details are recaptured better.
The Science of How Emotions Influence Memory
The brain, in spite of all its intricacies, is subdivided into different areas that influence the way we behave, act out in a situation, and apply logic/reason. The area of the brain that deals with our emotional selves is the amygdala, which governs the way our emotions control us, even if we aren't aware of how this works, given the situation both big and small. Long-term memory is when bits of events in the past are stored away in our brain, because they influence us to keep those memories in a permanent pocket in our memory vaults.

The frontal cortex is what transforms simple memory strands, into those that are long-term, simply because the event was substantial enough to store away. The hippocampus, which also teams up with the frontal cortex and even the cerebellum, is what determines how we store memory from the past and present, based on our emotions.
The hippocampus is an important part of the brain that behaves like an organizer that separates the memory into different areas of the brain meant for permanent storage, while also being able to tap into these memories upon recollection. This part of the brain associates one's emotions by connecting it to other senses like smell, sound, touch and how we perceive these visually. It is responsible for creating new memories and acting as the brain's governing factor when it comes to how these are stored and retrieved.
How Memories are Created as a Result of Our Emotions
There are elements involved when it comes to storing memory, namely - chemicals and electricity. Nerve cells are connected to other cells, with the meeting point known as a synapse. When actions are played out, they occur within this interconnected wiring, carrying electrical impulses between the cells. Neurotransmitters which are chemical-based elements, are sent off as a part of the electrical pulse that cover areas between cells, spreading the same to cells present in the surrounding area. Dendrites receive these electrical impulses, which connect themselves to other cells like a mesh, thus spreading the information uniformly.

The memory chamber branches out into various sections, where different areas that we focus on in our lives are determined by how often we do something, or how unexpectedly they occur. For example, driving a car or working out a routine on how you start your day, is all packed into a memory niche that is permanent and unchanging. Routine is usually stored away as concrete information, because we play these acts out on a regular basis.

Things like education can be recollected later, depending on how we stored the information that was learned, although unless we repeatedly touch upon it, this can be lost and remembered in bits and pieces only. Things like music are also short-term where repetitive exposure to the same determines how we store the information. Practicing a skill, or undergoing training in a field is what keeps our brains constantly tuned in to the same sources, therefore making our synapses stronger when recognizably similar signals are repeatedly sent through the cells.

Therefore the higher the frequency of information entering the brain cells, the stronger is the connection that is formed. As new information is fed into our brains, new connections are brought to life, where the brain has its way of grouping and filing away all these incoming data. This is how the brain forms memories, where exterior factors like training, practice and regular exposure, determine how we perfect them. Researchers have also pinpointed that how we pay attention to the information that is presented to us, is a huge role player. The more attention is paid to detail, the higher the chances of recording the minutest fragments of a memory.

It has also been noted that women are more emotionally drawn to a situation than men, therefore they can sustain their memory banks longer when it comes to retrieving information. The brain hasn't been figured out completely, where scientists will not deny that there is still so much more about this organ that hasn't been looked into yet. Our emotions are something that can affect our memories in more ways than one, where we will understand the association when we take note of how varied instances are remembered.

Think about the last time you had your heart broken or when a friend betrayed you, or even when you were jubilated on getting that much-awaited promotion - it is your emotions that fueled your brain to retain that strong memory strand that has in turn converted into permanent data. The best way to increase one's memory is to constantly expose it to things that will keep it fired up - like reading, playing mind games, being physically active and practicing memorization techniques to help strengthen one's memory - not letting it remain stagnant is the key.
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