Trauma can have a profound impact on a person’s
memory . . .
. . . and traumatic memory can affect not only the brain, but also the body and nervous system as well.
But conceptualizing how trauma can impact the different types of memory can be challenging, so we created a free tool for practitioners to use with clients that breaks down this process.
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A conscious, intentional recollection of factual information, previous experiences, and concepts.
- Semantic Memory – the memory of general knowledge and facts
- Episodic Memory – the autobiographical memory of an event or experience – including the who, what, and where.
A recollection acquired and used unconsciously that can affect thoughts and behaviors
- Procedural Memory – the memory of how to perform a common task without actively thinking about it.
- Emotional Memory – the memory of the emotions you felt during an experience.
- Semantic Memory
- Episodic Memory
- Procedural Memory
- Emotional Memory
You remember what a bicycle is.
You remember the sights and sounds and how scary it was to hit the rock and fall.
You can ride a bicycle automatically, without having to stop and recall how its done.
Next time you see your bike, you’re flooded with embarrassment because people saw you at an awkward and vulnerable moment.
How Trauma Can Affect It Trauma can prevent information (like words, images, sounds, etc.) from different parts of the brain from combining to make a semantic memory.
Related Brain Area The temporal lobe and inferior parietal cortex collect information from different brain areas to create semantic memory.
How Trauma Can Affect It Trauma can shutdown episodic memory and fragment the sequence of events
Related Brain Area The hippocampus is responsible for creating and recalling episodic memory.
How Trauma Can Affect It Trauma can change patterns of procedural memory for example, a person might tense up and unconsciously alter their posture, which could lead to pain or even numbness.
Related Brain Area The striatum is associated with producing procedural memory and creating new habits.
How Trauma Can Affect It after trauma, a person may get triggered and experience painful emotions, often without context.
Related Brain Area The amygdala plays a key role in supporting memory for emotionally charged experiences.
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If you’d like to learn more about how to work with traumatic memories, have a look at this short course featuring Bessel van der Kolk, MD, Peter Levine, PhD, Pat Ogden, PhD, Ruth Lanius, PhD, Joan Borysenko, PhD, and more.
Now we’d like to hear from you. How could this help you in your work? Please leave a comment below.