The way a brain perceives emotional events and processes these events controls how we form memories of our experiences. A lack of proper brain function is what causes conditions such as Schizophrenia and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In people who suffer from these conditions emotional experiences can become distorted, causing the person the ‘lose touch’ with reality.
Researchers discovered that specific brain receptors can control the magnitude of emotional experience and memory formation. A normally insignificant emotional experience could be transformed into a very strong emotional memory by altering the activity of a specific dopamine receptor in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain. When a different subtype of the dopamine system was activated, an emotionally charged experience could be blocked to control the magnitude of the memory.
These findings are significant, says Dr. Steven Laviolette of The University of Western Ontario, because “targeting these receptor systems pharmacologically may offer new therapeutic treatments for controlling the emotional perception and memory deficits observed in psychiatric disorders such as Schizophrenia and PTSD.”
Approximately 51 million people worldwide suffer from Schizophrenia and about eight percent of the population will have PTSD at some point in their lives