You Can Forget on Purpose
Freud was right. About people’s ability to repress unwanted memories, that is. So say researchers led by Michael Anderson of the University of Oregon and John Gabrieli of Stanford in the January 9 issue of Science.
The psychologists gave subjects 36 pairs of unrelated words. While their brains were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), subjects were asked to recall the second word of 12 of the pairs, and not to recall the second word of another 12. When they tried to forget a word, their frontal cortex lit up. Afterward, subjects were less likely to recall pairs they had tried not to think about than those they had been asked to remember or than baseline pairs they were not exposed to during the fMRI.
The “big news,” Gabrieli says, “is that we’ve shown how the human brain blocks an unwanted memory, that there is such a mechanism and it has a biological basis.”
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Data is from the past two weeks.