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“They Have Been Seared Into My Memory”: Psychologists Address Christine Blasey Ford’s Testimony

Summary: In light of testimony given by Christine Blasey Ford in relation to sexual assault, researchers explain why victims have a difficult time remembering certain details of violent events, but can experience specific vivid memories of what happened to them.

Source: Rutger’s University.

Christine Blasey Ford told the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday that she “will never forget” the key details of her alleged assault by Brett Kavanaugh, because “they have been seared into my memory.”

Her testimony echos research by Rutgers psychologist Tracey Shors, whose recent study found women who are sexually assaulted experience more vivid memories than women coping with the aftermath of other traumatic, life-altering events not associated with sexual violence.

“Each time you reflect on an old memory, you make a new one in your brain because it is retrieved in the present space and time,’’ said Shors, who co-authored the study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience. “What this study shows is that this process can make it even more difficult to forget what happened.”

a woman sitting on a bench

It explains why Blasey Ford may have difficulty remembering certain details leading up to the party in question, but how she testified that she is “100 percent certain” that Kavanaugh assaulted her as a teen. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

It explains why Blasey Ford may have difficulty remembering certain details leading up to the party in question, but how she testified that she is “100 percent certain” that Kavanaugh assaulted her as a teen.

About this neuroscience research article

Source: Lisa Intrabartola – Rutger’s University
Publisher: Organized by NeuroscienceNews.com.
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
Original Research: Open access research for “Stressful Life Memories Relate to Ruminative Thoughts in Women With Sexual Violence History, Irrespective of PTSD” by Emma M. Millon, Han Yan M. Chang and Tracey J. Shors in Frontiers in Neuroscience. Published September 5 2018.
doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00311

Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article
Rutger’s University””They Have Been Seared Into My Memory”: Psychologists Address Christine Blasey Ford’s Testimony.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 28 September 2018.
<http://neurosciencenews.com/blasey-ford-testimony-sexual-assault-9928/>.
Rutger’s University(2018, September 28). “They Have Been Seared Into My Memory”: Psychologists Address Christine Blasey Ford’s Testimony. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved September 28, 2018 from http://neurosciencenews.com/blasey-ford-testimony-sexual-assault-9928/
Rutger’s University””They Have Been Seared Into My Memory”: Psychologists Address Christine Blasey Ford’s Testimony.” http://neurosciencenews.com/blasey-ford-testimony-sexual-assault-9928/ (accessed September 28, 2018).

Abstract

Stressful Life Memories Relate to Ruminative Thoughts in Women With Sexual Violence History, Irrespective of PTSD

More than one in every four women in the world experience sexual violence (SV) in their lifetime, most often as teenagers and young adults. These traumatic experiences leave memories in the brain, which are difficult if not impossible to forget. We asked whether women with SV history experience stronger memories of their most stressful life event than women without SV history and if so, whether strength relates to ruminative and trauma-related thoughts. Using the Autobiographical Memory Questionnaire (AMQ), women with SV history (n = 64) reported this memory as especially strong (p < 0.001), remembering more sensory and contextual details, compared to women without SV history (n = 119). They further considered the event a significant part of their personal life story. The strength of the memory was highly correlated with posttraumatic cognitions and ruminative thoughts, as well as symptoms of depression and anxiety (p's < 0.001, n = 183). A third (33%) of the women with SV history were diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but PTSD alone did not account for the increase in memory strength (p's < 0.001). These data suggest that the experience of SV increases the strength of stressful autobiographical memories, which are then reexperienced in everyday life during posttraumatic and ruminative thoughts. We propose that the repeated rehearsal of vivid stressful life memories generates more trauma memories in the brain, making the experience of SV even more difficult to forget.

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