source: Bruce Ecker et al, “Unlocking the emotional brain”, in Psychotherapy Networker (U.S.), July-August 2013
A very promising discovery for psychotherapy: how the brain can unlock old emotional learnings and replace them by new ones. Until recently, brain researchers believed that the main problem in overcoming old conditioning was that the brain lacked any mechanism for actually erasing negative emotional learnings, the neural circuits of which had been considered to have ultra-durable synapses believed to be immutable over the lifetime of the individual.
However, the brain does come equipped with a key to the locked synapses of these neural circuits. This key became evident in 1997, when several labs began publishing reports of a brain process unrecognized before.
This process turns off a learned emotional response at its roots, not by merely suppressing it – as in a behavior-extinction procedure – but by actually unlocking the neural connections holding it in place and then erasing it within the nervous system. Researchers demonstrated how what is called the “memory reconsolidation” process works in various animal species as well as in humans.
In all these species, what