A car that looks like your ex, barks like your dead pet, smells like hospital food: There’s no shortage of stimuli that can be unpleasant. Fortunately, our brains are trained to block intrusive thoughts by acting directly on the memory area. According to work published in, this blockage can happen so fast that we will not even know about it Journal of Neurosciences,
an area of the brain that is able to block a thought or memory
Deciding not to think about something is a command that seems difficult to follow. And yet, there is a mechanism dedicated to this blockage in our brain, whose conduction is in a small region located in the heart of our brain: the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ADCC). This is the brain region that the researchers activated in 24 of the study subjects. were trained to remember pairs of words related to each other (for example train – dor or africa – beech), then they were asked to think of only one word, referred to as “recall” , and no other. “Then there is a conflict between the goal of not thinking about the memory associated with a recall and the inevitable tendency of that recall to automatically lead to the retrieval of the unwanted memory.”, explains Michael Anderson, a cognitive expert at the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom) and co-author of the study. It is this conflict that activates the CCAD, an area of the brain known for its cognitive control functions. To prevent memory from invading consciousness, CCAD must act quickly!
a blockage is sometimes so severe that it can cause fainting
And indeed, its speed of action is astonishing. Because if CCAD manages to suppress memory after it emerges, researchers find that it can inhibit this mechanism even before the memory is ejected! Scientists speak of proactive (early) and reactive (later) control. Seeing the difference between the two responses, which play out within a few hundred milliseconds, was no small feat.
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