10 Jun Ever wonder why you remember some events longer than others?
When I saw the movie Gravity, I didn’t read the reviews. I didn’t want them to spoil the story for me. Based on the somewhat abstract-looking space scenes in TV commercials, I thought the movie would be this serene, relaxed musing on what it’s like to float gently and happily in space.
So, I splashed out on the 3D IMAX version, thinking for sure this was going to be like those cool, educational immersive movies you see at the planetarium that make you feel like you’re really in a lush forest. Or on a frigid iceberg. Or in outer space.
It was only once the movie started that I realized it was (spoiler alert for the two other people in the world who still aren’t familiar with this film) a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat, will-she-won’t-she drama pretty much from start to finish. (PS: I made the same exact mistake with the movie No Country for Old Men, which, unlike its very bucolic-sounding name is not a sweet story about geriatrics. Like at all.)
Anyway, we went during my Week 2–so high estrogen was making me more flexible and open to rocket thrills and space chills. As a result, I ended up loving the movie.
However, once I left the theater, I couldn’t shake the tension-filled scenes I’d just watched from my head. For weeks, they interrupted my thoughts when I was working. At nightfall, I found myself staring off into the dark sky reliving the dramatic space story. I dreamt about it–in a mental 3D IMAX version–night after night.
Now research may explain why the gripping storyline wouldn’t budge from my brain:
According a recent brain scan study in the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, women recall emotionally-intense experiences far longer and more clearly when we experience them in the first half of our monthly cycle.
Which means that tension-filled scenes in movies, steamy passages in books, being a witness to an accident or even intense conversations with friends can linger longer in your mind when you encounter them in your Week 1 and Week 2.
Why does this occur? As the researchers explain it, during the first half of your cycle, rising estrogen revs excitement, which creates brain changes in memory centers that lead to better recall of intense events.
Meanwhile, in the second half of your cycle, progesterone has a dulling effect, which creates brain changes in areas responsible for memory that lead to a fuzzier recall of intense events.
The takeaway? When you find yourself thinking about an emotionally-charged experience long after it’s happened, it may not be because you’re worried about it, have an issue with it or it means anything significant. It could just be due to hormones planting a clearer memory of it in your mind.
Tip: Want an easy way to use this hormonal tidbit to your advantage? Next time you’re in the first half of your cycle and you’re studying for an exam, presentation or other task where you need to store new facts into your memory, picture an emotionally-intense image–like a drill sergeant shouting the items you need to remember at you. That way, you’ll fire up your brain’s memory centers, helping you recall the information more easily later.
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