Freud Gets a Reprieve: Memory Suppression Has Biological Mechanism
Psychologists offer proof of brain’s ability to suppress memories
BY Lisa Trei
Stanford Report, Jan. 8, 2004
For the first time, researchers at Stanford University and the University of Oregon have shown that a biological mechanism exists in the human brain to block unwanted memories.
The findings, published Jan. 9 in the journal Science, reinforce Sigmund Freud’s controversial century-old thesis about the existence of voluntary memory suppression.
“The big news is that we’ve shown how the human brain blocks an unwanted memory, that there is such a mechanism and it has a biological basis,” said Stanford psychology Professor John Gabrieli, a co-author of the paper titled “Neural Systems Underlying the Suppression of Unwanted Memories.” “It gets you past the possibility that there’s nothing in the brain that would suppress a memory — that it was all a misunderstood fiction.”
The experiment showed that people are capable of repeatedly blocking thoughts of experiences they don’t want to remember until they can no longer retrieve the memory, even if they want to, Gabrieli explained.