Anxiety and temporary memory loss

You try to brush it off, but to no avail. Sitting with pencil in hand, you turn over the page of the exam booklet. You read over the first few questions. It happens: all the knowledge you thought you had up your head magically vanishes from your mental repository. There’s nothing up there. Nothing at all. It’s as if someone went into your brain and removed all traces of your prior learning.

You end up failing the test, despite all the preparation beforehand.

It’s a common occurrence that happens to many of us. Our ability to retrieve and encode information from stored memories can be quite easily hijacked by stressful situations. Stress is shown to annihilate our ability to retrieve old memories (link is external). It offers to a brain-based explanation for why we so often blank during these types of memory-related performances.

How and why does this happen, exactly? And perhaps more important, how can we overcome stress? (link is external)

Recently, a team of neuroscientists (link is external)sought to uncover the neural underpinnings of stress, learning, and memory retrieval.

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