IN SHARP FOCUS
Sequelae and the Hippocampus: Christine Blasey Ford Schools the Senate on Memory Science
Ford, a research psychologist, used technical terms to explain why she’s sure her recollection of an alleged sexual assault is correct.
Christine Blasey Ford, research psychologist, used some technical terms during Thursday’s Senate hearing to explain why she is certain her memory of an alleged sexual attack in the 1980s is accurate.
Ford’s testimony included harrowing and vivid details of the attack, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) quizzed her about about the trustworthiness of her recollections.
“The same way I'm sure I'm talking to you right now,” she told Feinstein.
“It’s just basic memory functions, and also just the level of norepinephrine and epinephrine in the brain that ... encodes memories into the hippocampus so that trauma-related experience is locked there [while] other memories just drift.”
Norepinephrine and epinephrine are neurotransmitters and hormones that work in concert in the “fight-or-flight” response that would be expected during an incident like the one Ford described. The two elevate sugar levels and increase heart rate and also make a person more aware of their surroundings.
Norepinephrine and epinephrine heighten senses and enhance memory creation. The hippocampus plays a huge role in creating long-term memories and later retrieving them.
Ford also used the term sequelae to explain why certain aspects of her memory are vivid compared to others. Sequelae refers to the pathological result of a disease or injury. In Ford’s case, the sequelae she was describing were similar to the symptoms of post-traumatic disorder and anxiety.