Brain uses an alarm system to suppress intrusive thoughts

(ORDO NEWS) — Forget what you’ve seen: One region of the brain detects when you’re about to recall an unwanted memory and alerts other regions to suppress it, according to a study recently published in the journal JNeurosci.

Crespo Garcia et al. measured participants’ brain activity using EEG and fMRI while they performed a memory task.

Participants memorized sets of words (eg gate and train) and were asked to either recall a couple of cue words (see gate, think about train) or focus on the cue word only (see gate, think only gate).

During proactive memory suppression, activity in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), an area of ​​the brain involved in cognitive control, increased during the first 500 milliseconds after a task was completed.

The ACC relayed information to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), which then suppressed activity in the hippocampus, a key region for memory.

The level of activity in AUC and DLPFC remained low until the end of the trial, which is a sign of success – the memory was stopped early enough that suppression was no longer required.

If the memory was not suppressed in time, the ACC would generate a reactive alarm, increasing its activity to signal the DLPFC to stop the intrusion.


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