By On December 22nd, 2006

9-11 memories more vivid for those close to scene

A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that New Yorkers that were closer to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11th 2001 have more vivid memories of the terrorist attacks. The participants of the study were exposed to magnetic resonance imaging of their brains. Of these participants, those that were closest to the World Trade Center during its attack showed more activity in the amygdala, a part of the brain that is associated with emotions. This differs from those that were further away from the disaster as their scans only involved parts of the brain associated with recollection. According to Elizabeth Phelps, a professor at New York University, “The downtown subjects also reported seeing, hearing, and smelling what had happened. Subjects who were, on average, around midtown Manhattan reported experiencing the events secondhand, such as on television or the Internet…” The following is an excerpt of the article:

Tali Sharot, an NYU researcher and the study’s lead author, said the findings “indicate that personal involvement may be critical in producing memories with the characteristic qualities of flashbulb memories.

“We think this is because the amygdala, which is known to play a role in enhancing the feeling of remembering for emotional material, is more engaged when these events are experienced first hand,” she said.

Flashbulb memories are a psychological concept that memories of shocking events such as a presidential assassination are created in a unique process that sears the image into the brain like a photo.

Studies of other events have shown, however, that flashbulb memories are not necessarily more accurate than other memories, even though the person had a vivid recall of them and is very confident.

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