Posted in Of Psyche

Of Emotion and Memory


Apparently, both emotion and memory occupy the same area of the brain. Ah, the cruel tricks of nature. Or, is it evolution? If there are any neuroscientists reading this, please tell me whether we humans chose to get two fundamentally opposite forces to live in the same house. Or, have we always been like this, because I can see how that explains the cause of our everyday miseries more than anything else.

And it doesn’t even end there! The hippocampus – such a delightful name for the menagerie inside our brains – not only carries emotion and memory, but motivation as well. And as a bonus for the women in the audience, it decided to take care of oestrogen too. It explains everything! I am 100% sure the science is much more complicated than this, but just to think all of these living and working together all our lives in something that is supposed to look like a sea-horse explains, I repeat, everything.

And, things get even better. Research has shown that in a depressed mind, the hippocampus actually shrinks. Yes, you read that right. All this time, I’ve been reading in popular science articles how depression and anxiety are only misguided attempts of our bodies to cope with stress. To think that my mind, when it sees my memories affecting my emotions and vice-versa, actually decides to downsize the squabbling couple to an even smaller house, makes me think the brain is the least intelligent organ in the body. At least, you can depend on your gut to make you feel queasy and evacuate immediately from an anxious place, even if it’s the bathroom you run to.

Remarkably, the gut is the second most intelligent part of our body, according to research. It contains the second most number of neurons – nerve cells – after the brain, which explains the timeless obsession of humanity with food and lavatorial humour. But, it’s not my gut which keeps me awake at 2am, thinking about what someone said or did fifteen years ago. It is not my gut which makes me forget everything. Everything. Even things I used to pride myself for remembering. Whole chunks of necessary and unnecessary information gone because I haven’t been emotional about them for a while. Or never. At least, I never forget song lyrics.

And it explains school too! I was never good with regimental education. It made me highly emotional alright, but my emotions ranged from fear, worry, pain and feeling stupid. I don’t remember Chemistry or computer programming, just what they made me feel when I get bad dreams about them every other day. On the other hand, pleasant things like literature occupy the happy part of my brain, so I still remember poems from so long ago.

And it explains people too. And relationships. And arguments and conversations that never seem to go anywhere, because you remember things that are useless to you in that situation. You run into long-lost friends who remember nothing about you, or you remember nothing about them, which just explains what you meant to each other. Sorry, you may have saved my life, but I had to give more space, time and energy to this other person who made me miserable. That’s just the way the human brain works. That is why I am this kind of a person.

Because when you place emotion and memory next to each other (and motivation and oestrogen too), you can hardly expect a person to be wise and discerning. All you’ll get is a highly-charged opera, where the more intense the emotion, whether it be love, fear, anger, the more intense will be the memory of it. Obviously, you’ll go over it again and again, further solidifying the memory through repetition. Even if you manage to suppress it, it will come out in one way or another.

And how could you be motivated to do anything when these two can’t sort their problems out? Of course, you’ll go back to sleep, as these two keep trying to resolve their issues for as long as you breathe. Yes, I must work out how to forget what I feel about that person I haven’t seen in years. Yes, I must understand how I could ever like this band all those years ago. Oh, what use are the contributions I can potentially make to humanity if only I motivate myself to remember useful things, when this person will never be in my life again? And oh, I am a woman and everything, so how can I even begin to comprehend why my body and mind works the way it does?

I can feel my hippocampus shrink by just thinking about it! I know there are a class of anti-depressants that work to improve the intra-brain and nervous system movement of serotonin – responsible for transmitting information through the nerves. However, if the case with the hippocampus is true, I don’t see how anything can work. Even the hippocampus bulging up won’t necessarily salvage the situation. All I can humanly do is, accept and make the best of the situation. But, that’s only logic talking. All the emotion I feel right now is the memory of memories I wish I could forget, to make space for the ones that will make me feel better.

How much do your memories affect you?


Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

4 thoughts on “Of Emotion and Memory

  1. In Star Trek, the popular notion that if we could eliminate emotions, we would think more logically, doesn’t hold up to science. In truth, without emotions we would not be able to make decisions.

    1. I agree as well. Knowing that the same part of the brain operates both emotion and memory will probably help us understand why we make the decisions we do. Anti-depressants that curb feeling emotions don’t necessarily help lead a more productive life. We need emotions and motivation for doing things. Only logic won’t do.

  2. I guess lobotomies work for depression by destroying short term memory. Meditation works better — you can control your thoughts — move away from the memories that upset you.

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