It has happened to all of us at some point that, for some reason, we realize that in seconds or minutes we are unable to think of anything concrete or remember the items we are looking for in our memory file, however basic they may be.
For example, when we speak in public, it may happen that at least we are able to remember what was the basic message that we want to communicate, let alone the lines of the scenario that we had prepared. It can also happen in more conventional contexts. For example, at a gathering of friends, we didn’t know what to say, even though what we were talking about was a topic to think about is relatively easy.
This phenomenon is known as being virgin and has an explanation which has to do with how memory relates to certain psychological states.
The explanation of the phenomenon of being left blank
The first thing to keep in mind to understand why we are sometimes left blank is that all of our mental activity, even in its most trivial aspects, has to do with our memories.
Memory is not just a storehouse in which a little man who manages the functioning of our brain accumulates relevant information. Everything we are and do is expressed through our actions because in the past we have internalized all kinds of experiences. A brain completely devoid of memory is inconceivableBecause everything that happens in our brain has to do with the imprint that past experiences have left on our brain.
In short, memories are not just those bits of information that we retain from experiences that have happened to us, nor the data that we strive to remember. Memory is how a smell makes us feel bad because we associate it with something that happened to us years ago, and also this is how we learned to relate certain ideas to each other, Allowing our thinking to flow effortlessly.
The fact that it is left blank is a sign that our memory is suffering from a small crisis in its basic functioning. For some reason, a lot of our memories have been temporarily out of reach, causing thought to stall for a while.
The role of stress in memory recovery
Sometimes the appearance of times when we were left blank this may be due to defects in the parts of the brain involved in memory retrieval. For example, one of the main symptoms of dementia is poor memory retrieval.
However, this same phenomenon (of lower intensity and frequency) is also normal in perfectly healthy brains. In these situations, stress plays a very important role. When we go through times of anxiety, many mental processes that govern how the brain works change completely.
Anxiety may seem insignificant if we interpret it only as a boring feeling, however it is in fact accompanied by a neurochemical chain reaction that affects the entire nervous system and the release of hormones that target different organs in our body. And, of course, anxiety also influences memory.
Specifically, when we feel stressed parts of our body called the adrenal glands (located on the kidneys) they start to secrete a variety of hormones called glucocorticoids. These chemicals are not only responsible for our inability to remember what happened to us at a time when we were under very high acute stress (like a motorcycle accident); Outraged, they drastically decrease our ability to access memories that we had already stored and which we may have remembered a few minutes ago.
The effect of glucocorticoids on the hippocampus
When we start to feel stress, like before an exam, our nervous system goes into a state of alertness associated with dangerous situations. This means that our body becomes an alarm that reacts to danger signs which in other contexts would have been ignored because they were not important i.e. brain activation is geared towards receiving external stimuli.
This allows you to start acting quickly to avoid damage, but for this you pay the price of not spending too many resources on reasoning or thinking in an uncreative way, which is necessary to articulate moderately elaborate sentences.
In these situations, glucocorticoids totally interfere with the functioning of the hippocampus, a part of the brain known to be the repertoire of memories that can be expressed verbally (declarative memory). As long as the levels of this hormone are high, the hippocampus will have more difficulty normal when it comes to accessing memories and associations between concepts learned through experience.
Outraged, the effects of glucocorticoids do not go away just as acute stress goes away. Their levels persist for quite a while, and if we experience chronic stress their levels will hardly ever drop at all, which means we will experience these mental deficiencies more often. This is why the times when we have been virgins don’t just happen when we are feeling very nervous; they can be part of the aftereffects of having constantly felt anxiety.