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Anticipation Could Have An Intense Effect On Memory

Anticipation of a fearful situation can play an important role in inspiring memory.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, while conducting a more in-depth research// on the formation of memory have come up with the findings that the very anticipation of a fearful situation can stir up two memory-forming regions of the brain even before the event has occurred.

The researchers explained that the simple act of anticipation might play a astonishingly important role in how fresh the memory of a tough experience could remain. Like for example, it has always been known by psychologists that memories of disturbing emotional events such as an act of violence or the unexpected death of a loved one are more clear and deeply imprinted in the brain than dull and routine recollections of everyday matters.

The findings of the brain-imaging study, which appear in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, have important implications for the treatment of psychological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social anxiety, which are often characterized by flashbacks and intrusive memories of upsetting events.

"The main motivation for this study was a clinical one, in terms of understanding and applying knowledge about memory so that we can better inform the treatment of disorders that have a large memory component, like PTSD," says lead author Kristen Mackiewicz, a graduate student at the University of Colorado who worked on the anticipation study while a student at UW-Madison.

The project also builds on a relatively new body of work on the role of anticipation in emotion and clinical disorders, says senior author Jack Nitschke, a UW-Madison assistant professor of psychiatry and psychology.

"Our study illustrates how the power of expectancy can extend to memory formation as well," says Nitschke, also an associate of UW-Madison's Waisman Laborato
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