False Memories and Bad Feelings

New research has been formulated regarding a physiological marker for false memories  (not to be confused with lies), bad feelings and sleep.

The Guardian has reported on new research that claims false memories have a psychological marker that can be determined via a simple test that measures the conductance of the skin.

The results of the study are still in their infancy and additional studies should and need to be conducted to completely understand the body/brain’s physical response to memories that never happened.

German researchers used a variation of the Deese-Roediger-McDermott paradigm (DRM), a widely used method for establishing false memories, in their experiment.

They used visual stimuli in lieu of word association, used in the regular DRM experiments, to determine the body’s physiological difference between real and false memories.   They found that a stimulus that has already been encountered (a true recollection) will be more significant, to the participant, than one that has not because it is more familiar.  This familiarity can be measured via increased skin conductance; thus, false memories are associated with decreased skin conductance.

One thing to keep in mind in the study’s findings is that false memories are very different than deception.  This difference lies in the person’s awareness.  People are unaware of a false memory; whereas,  they are fully aware of the truth (real memory) when concealing information or lying.

On another note Science News reports that sleep embeds bad memories into the brain while remaining awake after a traumatic event lessens the emotional toll of the event.

The study’s findings published in the Journal of Neuroscience suggest that people who slept well after an unpleasant experience had a better recollection of that event while those that stayed awake did not.

Cognitive neuroscientist Jessica Payne of the University of Notre Dame, points out an observation that sleep deprivation leads to increased stress, which can profoundly influence emotions.   She states, “In most cases, it’s better to sleep than to not sleep.”

This is can be relevant to post-traumatic stress disorder.  The bigger question in this research is whether sleep just embeds the memory of the event or has a greater impact via changing how you feel about the event if you experience it again.

It is important to point out that there are other studies that have conflicting findings suggesting that sleep can help emotionally with traumatic experiences.

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