Tim Brunson DCH

Welcome to The International Hypnosis Research Institute Web site. Our intention is to support and promote the further worldwide integration of comprehensive evidence-based research and clinical hypnotherapy with mainstream mental health, medicine, and coaching. We do so by disseminating, supporting, and conducting research, providing professional level education, advocating increased level of practitioner competency, and supporting the viability and success of clinical practitioners. Although currently over 80% of our membership is comprised of mental health practitioners, we fully recognize the role, support, involvement, and needs of those in the medical and coaching fields. This site is not intended as a source of medical or psychological advice. Tim Brunson, PhD

The Role Your Brain Plays in Memory

By Dr. Alexander R. Lees

CSI, CSI Miami, CSI New York, Numb3rs, Criminal Minds and others. Now, why do you suppose I've mentioned these TV shows? There are two reasons: Each commands a phenomenally large viewing audience (CSI is the #1 show on TV), and all of these shows are about science.

To the surprise and delight of many people (probably including the producers of the shows) there are many people that want to know the science behind the scenes. They want to understand what's happening, and once they do, they will more readily accept a new innovation or technique. "It" now makes sense to them.

As those of you that have attended my workshops know, I like to mix in a little science into whatever subject I'm teaching because doing so helps many people to accept the new information they are about to learn more easily. Of course, there are some people that don't need or want to know the how of how things work, but upon hearing the information, admit it's interesting and end up wanting to know more. It's usually at this point in a workshop that my wife Berit has to rein me in, and remind me I'm teaching EFT, NLP, etc., and need to get back to the topic at hand.

Also, for those that have read my newsletters, most of you know that I am very interested in the newly emerging worlds of Energy Medicine and Energy Psychology. I have been researching these fields for some time, hoping to sort out what actually has been demonstrated to work, and what still remains in the realm of experimental, or as in some cases, is only hype.

One of the areas that interest me a great deal is the subject of memory, which leads to the following questions:

? How does a negative or unwanted memory form?
? What is the mechanism involved that allows it to so influence, or shape, a personality, and therefore bias future responses?

To answer these questions, we need to take a journey inside of the human brain and have a look at some of the little black boxes involved in memory formation.

Memories are formed in two major ways. The first one is easy - repetition. Remember kindergarten? The information was repeated over and over again, and, at some point in this repetition, the lights went on, and the subject matter was then known. This is the same process involved in learning to ride a bicycle, drive a car, and so on.

The other major memory formation is called an imprint. In essence, this is a one time learning experience and to understand it, we now need to peek once again under the hood, into those little black boxes.

Let's say you find yourself in a situation, event, or circumstance that evokes a strong emotional response. For example: You see your mother-in-law and immediately feel a bit queasy in your stomach. Or, your boss asks you to do a presentation and you want to throw up just at the thought of talking in front of a group of people. Both these are examples of an unwanted emotional response. Any emotional response that makes you

uncomfortable (especially when you would rather respond some other way) can be classified as negative or unwanted.

So, there you are, in some situation that evokes an unwanted, or negative emotional response. This signal is immediately sent to the first of the little black boxes, the Amygdala. The Amygdala evaluates the signal by comparing it to previously stored data about the same subject. If the reference data contains a negative charge, the Amygdala then sends a signal to the Pituitary, which immediately releases stress hormones. These hormones are information carrying chemicals designed to enhance memory formation, among other things, and they accomplish this by enhancing the senses (the input channels) thus making them more acute. In turn, the heart rate increases, and blood is shunted away from the central core of the body to the large muscle groups. This supercharged information (what you saw, heard, felt, smelled, etc.) is now sent to the Hippocampus and is quickly encoded into long term memory and then stored in the Cerebral Cortex.

Due to the supercharging, no repetition is necessary; the information is now permanently stored, and ready to be used as a reference in the future (see mother-in-law and feel queasy).

Along comes a new situation - if we use the example of the mother-in-law, you are now divorced and remarried, with a new mother-in-law. This mother-in-law is really a nice person but unfortunately she has sufficient similar traits and characteristics to your first mother-in-law. The brain checks its stored data for reference and says, "Ah! I know what this is. Based on past experience, the sky is falling! Run! Run!

Because the original imprint was stimulated during the referencing, it downloads from the Cerebral Cortex, back to the Hippocampus, and once again triggers the release of stress hormones into the system, which attach themselves to this new experience, reinforcing the original imprint.

It's important to realize that the original experience was perceived on some level as a threat to survival. Please remember, the mechanism used to imprint the response is very old, and reads the situation as equivalent to that of a sabre toothed tiger attacking, thus allowing us to call upon the tiger response to protect us in the future. As stated, the mechanism is really quite old and unfortunately, Microsoft hasn't come up with updates to download, so we can still end up petrified by the experience in question. Naturally, most of us would prefer to reprogram our response if only we knew how.

Enter Energy Psychology. Remember I said earlier that the new stimulus triggers the imprinted one to download again, tripping the same stress released hormones. The idea then is to once again trigger the imprint, and as you feel the feelings, "tap out" (see articles on tapping acupressure points elsewhere on this site) the unwanted response. (And, yes, there are other techniques that work just as well.) The idea is to discharge or neutralize the charge. Done properly, the brain will then re-file the memory without the energy charge. This is called healing because the original negative or unwanted experience no longer influences future experiences. Study after study shows that given the same experience, whereby one has a large negative charge, and another does not, the brain prefers to use the neutral one as a reference for responding. Sometimes, however, the neutral experience may have to be repeated to condition the change into the system)

Since the pituitary no longer signals the release of the stress hormones, the comfort zone of the individual begins to expand in proportion, so the more traumas that are adequately resolved (i.e., no discomfort upon recall) the happier the person will be and that is (1) A good thing, and (2) Some of the science behind the scenes.

So, now you know why and how you sometimes feel bad or stressed... and the "science bits" weren't that complicated, where they? Knowing why and how something like memory works allows us to more easily change it, especially if we don't like the feelings we're having.

For more information visit www.DrAlexLees.com.

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