Reliable information can be obtained through hypnosis

Can psychotherapy trigger false memories?

"If I am completely convinced that I have experienced something, there are no longer any neuronal differences in memory recall."
(Tobias Sommer-Blöchl, neuroscientist)

Renate Volbert says: »Failure to remember is at least not a typical consequence of trauma. It is much more likely that people will be flooded with terrible memories. ”It is true that some studies show that people with childhood trauma perform worse in memory tests than participants in a control group who are not pre-stressed in this way. In other surveys, however, they achieve comparable results.

In addition, such experiments only examine the ability to memorize new information. They do not grasp the state of the memories of the traumatic experience itself. Here, studies have shown that those affected relatively often mistakenly remember the details of a traumatic situation, although the retrospective often seems particularly vivid and truthful to them. So more emotions do not automatically lead to better memories.

Stress test for memory

Neuroscientist Tobias Sommer-Blöchl also wants to investigate how memory works when it is confronted with a stressful event. He is currently planning a research project to use the Trier Social Stress Test. The test subjects have to spontaneously expose themselves to an interview, which creates enormous stress. Previous studies by Oliver Wolf, Professor of Cognitive Psychology at the Ruhr University in Bochum, have shown that test subjects in such a situation are more likely to direct their gaze and attention to objects that are relevant to the situation than to other objects in the environment . Accordingly, they can also remember such things better afterwards. Sommer-Blöchl would now like to investigate how this information is stored in the brain over eight months: What is transferred to long-term memory? And how do these memories change over time, depending on how stressful an event was?

In order for people to be able to remember something, it must first be stored as a memory trace in the brain. Information and experiences are stored in very specific connections between the nerve cells, which can be reactivated later - either consciously when we think about it or talk about it, or unconsciously during sleep. Neuroscience has not yet investigated whether we can suppress and rediscover an (originally stored) experience over a long period of time. "However, it is known from cognitive psychology that the right cues can bring what has apparently been forgotten back into conscious memory, for example in conversations with old friends or when we watch a film a second time," says Tobias Sommer-Blöchl.

Renate Volbert also does not rule out the fact that one cannot remember traumatic events in individual cases for a long time, but that they reappear in the memory due to a trigger, for example when one meets a person who was involved in the trauma. »Not having thought back about anything for a long time, however, is different from saying:› I didn't even know that this happened to me! I thought I had a lovely childhood and now I know that it was hell on earth, 'says the forensic psychologist.

She therefore takes a critical look at psychotherapists who certainly assume trauma as the cause of psychological suffering such as depression or anxiety, even if such a trauma is not known at all. And who then look for unconscious memories with methods that promote a pictorial idea, for example with hypnosis. “The images created in the head become more and more familiar and easier to call up over time,” explains Renate Volbert. They could then be mistaken for real memory content. If the psychotherapist also thinks they are true, tormenting bogus memories could ultimately arise.