Psychological problems, such as post-traumatic stress, dissociative disorders, depression or anxiety can be caused by suppressed memories of stressful experiences. Traumatic memories like childhood abuse, horrifying crimes, massive accidents or any emotionally painful event can’t be accessed consciously. As the brain tries to protect itself from these stressful, fear-related memories, it stores them in a “hidden” place and creates pathways that can only be found when the brain goes back to the same chemical composition it had while experiencing trauma.
The process was proven at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, by Dr. Jelena Radulovic’s research on mice. In the experiment, the scientists have drugged the mice to change the state of their brains and placed them in a box where they were given a mild electric shock. The next day, the mice were put in the same box without being drugged which led to no reaction. However, after drugging them again the mice paralyzed in fear, because they were expecting another electric shock. This simple experiment implies that memories are stored differently if the brain changes its chemical composition. Fear or stress increase some hormonal releases, which make the brain function in different states.
Hidden memories are the root cause of many psychiatric disorders. This makes therapies almost impossible when patients can’t remember the traumatic experience that caused their problems. But with the Northwestern’s medicine scientists findings new treatments can be explored. By finding the right chemical composition the traumatic memories might be remembered and explored, giving therapists the starting point they need to help their patients.