Our memories are the things that make us who we are.” So says neuroscientist and New York University professor Joseph LeDoux in this brief, very fascinating article which aims to explain the way our brains store our sad, glad and bittersweet memories. In other words, the memories we feel most strongly about.
To quote this piece further: “When a memory is stored at a time of emotional arousal, the imprint is more powerful, possibly due to the neurotransmitters — comparable to hormones in the endocrine system — that the brain secretes in that moment.”
This scientific perspective on nostalgia is especially intriguing now, as the final week of 2014 draws to a close and we are encouraged everyday to look back and take stock.
Have you ever wondered: Why is it that some experiences stand out, imprinted deeply and retained for a lifetime, while others fade away? How can we actually shape what we remember, so that the stories of our past can be helpful to us in the future? Coming to a better understanding of the first question certainly seems to position us to more effectively answer the second question. And how bad could that be?
Brad Hirschfield is the co-founder and co-executive editor of The Wisdom Daily. A rabbi, Brad has been featured on ABC’s Nightline UpClose, PBS’s Frontline, Fox News and National Public Radio. He wrote a long-standing column, “For God’s Sake,” for the Washington Post, and has also written for The Huffington Post and Beliefnet.com. He authored the book, You Don?t Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism. Brad also serves as President of Clal, The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, a leadership training institute, think tank and resource center in New York City.