Tag Archives: Cerebellum

Trauma And Memory

In this article, I want to focus on the potential adverse affects of trauma on memory, and, in particular, four types of memory :

  • episodic memory
  • semantic memory
  • procedural memory
  • emotional memory

I briefly explain the function of these four types of memory below :

EPISODIC MEMORY : Our episodic memory stores our unique memories of specific events.

SEMANTIC MEMORY : Our semantic memory stores concepts, facts, ideas and meanings relating to the world in general / general knowledge.

PROCEDURAL MEMORY : Our procedural memory stores information about how to carry out ‘procedures’ that underlie motor, cognitive and visuospatial skills such as walking, swimming and driving, that have become ‘second nature’ and can be performed automatically.

EMOTIONAL MEMORY : Emotional memory stores information relating to how we felt / the emotions we experienced at the time of a particular event.

 

A SIMPLE EXAMPLE THAT HELPS TO EXPLAIN THESE FOUR TYPES OF MEMORY :

If an individual was involved in a car accident, the four types of memory the person has of the event might be as follows :

EPISODIC MEMORY : The memory of who else was in the car at the time of the crash and what was playing on the radio.

SEMANTIC MEMORY : The memory of what a car is.

PROCEDURAL MEMORY : The memory of how to drive a car (assuming the person has been driving for a long time and is not new to it).

EMOTIONAL MEMORY : The fear felt the next time the person drives the car (the car triggers the fear-response associated with the crash which has been stored in memory).

 

How Can Trauma Adversely Affect These Four Types Of Memory?

EPISODIC MEMORY : Trauma can cause the part of the brain which forms and indexes episodic memories, known as the hippocampus) to ‘go off-line’ temporarily or may impair its normal functioning in such a way that the episodic memory of the traumatic event formed is fragmented, incohesive, and not properly processed. Because of this, fragments of memories that were formed when the traumatic event occurred may intrude on the mind in the form of flashbacks and nightmares after the traumatic event is over for as long as this incomplete processing persists (which, in the absence of therapy and in the most serious cases, may be for a life-time).

SEMANTIC MEMORY : Trauma can prevent information from different brain regions integrating in a meaningful way thus impairing the person’s ability to form semantic memories – this, in turn, can lead to learning difficulties. Semantic memories are generated in a region of the brain known as the anterior temporal lobe.

PROCEDURAL MEMORY : Trauma can adversely affect our memory of how to carry our procedures / activities. Continuing with the ‘car accident’ example, the next time we drive a car our muscles may become tense so that our driving is less smooth than before the accident and we find, too, that we are thinking more than normal about simple procedures like changing gear and using the indicator (whereas, pre-accident’, such procedures would have been undertaken ‘automatically’ / without conscious deliberation. The main regions of the brain involved in the operation of procedural memory are the prefrontal cortex, parietal cortex and cerebellum.

EMOTIONAL MEMORY : The next time we sit behind the wheel after the accident, we may feel flooded with fear. The region of the brain involved in learning and forming  fear memories is known as the amygdala.

 

RELATED POSTS :

TYPES OF DISSOCIATIVE AMNESIA IN COMPLEX PTSD

FIVE TYPES OF AMNESIA LINKED TO CHILDHOOD TRAUMA

CHILDHOOD TRAUMA AND MEMORY – WHY SOME REMEMBER AND OTHERS FORGET.

CAN ‘BURIED MEMORIES’ BE UNCOVERED BY HYPNOSIS?

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

How Childhood Trauma Can Make You Oversensistive To Light, Sound And Touch

light oversensitivity

Before babies and young children are able to learn through the use of language, they learn through the information they receive through their senses (i.e. taste, touch, smell, sight and sound) and by integrating this information in meaningful ways.

The main part of the brain that is responsible for putting together this sensory information in ways that facilitate learning is the CEREBELLUM, located at the back of the head (see diagram below).

How Childhood Trauma Can Adversely Affect The Development Of The Cerebellum : 

Neuroscientific studied suggest that the development of the cerebellum depends significantly upon the perceived security, consistency, reliability and rhythmicity of the mother’s (or primary carer’s) physical holding of the infant.

 

Neglect :

If the mother (or primary carer) is neglectful and does not hold the baby sufficiently frequently in a manner that transmits to him/her (i.e. the baby) feelings of deep and meaningful emotional connection , this may lead to impaired development of the cerebellum which, in turn, can lead to cerebellar dysfunction.  It is this dysfunction of the cerebellum which may then cause problems integrating sensory information (Teicher et al., 2003).
cerebellum

Effects Of Cerebellar Dysfunction :

Dysfunctions which may result from impaired development of the cerebellum due to the kind of neglect described above include :
  • extreme sensitivity of touch. Examples include the affected individual  :

– being easily irritated by ‘coarse’ feeling clothing

– being easily made to feel uncomfortable by the touch of others (therefore the individual may feel compelled to actively avoid coming into physical contact with others and to be averse to their touch). Alternatively, s/he may crave tender, physical contact with others, as adults, in order to to compensate the perceived lack of loving, nurturing touch by his/her mother (or other primary carer) in early life.

  • extreme sensitivity to light (e.g. having to wear sunglasses in conditions the vast majority of people would not feel the need to do so)

 

  • extreme sensitivity to sound / noise (e.g. feeling intense irritation or anger in response to small sounds that the vast majority of others would not find bothersome).
  • learning difficulties : problems organising sensory input can lead, in turn, lead to difficulties organising a cohesive sense of the world.

Also, according to Doyon (1997), the cerebellum represents the brain’s main seat of PROCEDURAL MEMORY – this is a part of long-term memory that stores information about how to do things (i.e. carry out procedures, skills and actions, both cognitive and motor, such as talking, reading, walking) and FORMS THE FOUNDATION OF ALL LEARNING.

  • lack of co-ordination and clumsiness

 

 

  •  RHYTHMIC DYSREGULATION (this is too complex to go into detail about here, but you may wish to read more about it by clicking on this link)

 

David Hosier BSc Hons: MSc; PGDE(FAHE)