There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief.
Classically, the hippocampus is the structure in the brain associated with memory, because when you remove it surgically, a person will have deficits in memory. But contrary to what many neuroscientists believe, this doesn’t necessarily prove that the hippocampus is the seat of memory.
In fact, recent findings support the theory that recall is stored throughout the body, not in the brain alone. Dr. Eric R. Kandel, a neurobiologist at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, received a Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2000 for showing that memory resides at the level of the receptor. The activity of cellular binding throughout the body can impact neuronal circuitry, influencing memory and thinking. When a tor is flooded with a peptide or other ligand, the cell membrane is changed in such a way that the probability of an electrical impulse travelling across the membrane is affected. Remember, wherever there’s a receptor, there’s also a vibrating electrode or diode where circuits can change.
This, in turn, affects the choice of neuronal circuitry that will be used, impacting brain activity. These recent discoveries are important for appreciating how memories are stored not only in the brain but in the body as well, where a psychosomatic network extends throughout all systems of the organism.
A major storage area is in the receptors distributed near the spinalcord, between nerve and ganglia, and all the way out to the internal organs and the surface of the skin. This means that your memories are in your spinal cord, as well as all throughout your bodymind.
Whether your memories are conscious or not is mediated by the molecules of emotion. They decide what becomes a thought rising to the surface, and what remains buried deeply in your body.
What this means is that much of memory is emotion driven, not conscious, although it can sometimes be made conscious by intention. The emotions that you’re able to experience can bring a recollection to the surface; if your feelings are suppressed, however, they can bury that same memory far below your awareness, where it can affect your perceptions, decisions, behavior, and even health, all unconsciously.
Buried, painful emotions from the past make up what some psychologists and healers call a person’s “core emotional trauma.” The point of therapy including bodywork, some kinds of chiropractic, and energy medicine is to gently bring that wound to gradual awareness so it can be reexperienced and understood. Only then is choice a faculty of your frontal cortex possible, allowing you to reintegrate any disowned parts of yourself, let go of old traumatic patterns, and become healed, or whole.
Very clear studies done by Dr. Donald Overton show that there are dissociated (not connected) states of learning and memory. His data demonstrates that what you learn in one drug-induced state, you can’t retrieve from your memory at a later time unless you’re in the same condition. If you’re smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee to prepare for an exam, you won’t be able to remember enough information to pass unless you’re doing those things when you take the test.
This is because various substances (such as alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine) create altered states of consciousness with different emotions and memories, and therefore, different modes in which to learn. In other words, you acquire knowledge with your entire bodymind, not just with your brain. Also, learning is an emotional event, impacted by how you’re feeling. There are tons of data showing that you can’t grasp new information in a state of fear. I’ve lectured to educators about educators about how punishment and threats actually inhibit the learning process.
EMOTION AND MEMORY