Fixing Yesterday with Tomorrow

Jun
24
2011
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Lynne McTaggart
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The brain stubbornly refuses to operate according to our current notions of reality. Not only does it have difficulty working out the difference between a thought and an action, it also appears to be an organ without an understanding of time as a forward progression. 

Extraordinary new evidence shows that the brain cannot distinguish between the recall of our own past (called ‘episodic memory’) and imagination of our future events. Indeed, the same areas of the brain are activated for both activities.

The brain stubbornly refuses to operate according to our current notions of reality. Not only does it have difficulty working out the difference between a thought and an action, it also appears to be an organ without an understanding of time as a forward progression.

Extraordinary new evidence shows that the brain cannot distinguish between the recall of our own past (called ‘episodic memory’) and imagination of our future events. Indeed, the same areas of the brain are activated for both activities.

 

Imagine there’s no future

Researchers have teased out this structural aspect of the brain by studying people with a variety of cognitive problems. The first clue came when researchers at University College London discovered that people with memory problems also have difficulties in conjuring up a detailed spec of their future.   

In this particular study, published in the American Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, patients suffering from amnesia who could not recall specific information from their own life history were able to conjure up only a fragmentary design of their future. Other studies of people suffering from depression who routinely have lapses in memory have also found these individuals to have difficulty imagining their future. 

Indeed, one reason that depression may persist is that the sufferer has a problem with imagining that life will ever get better for them.  

Confused brain

These assumptions, based on scientific findings, were actually put to the test when researchers at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, studied patients using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In this study, people were asked to both recall and imagine common events, such as a birthday party or the experience of getting lost. To the surprise of the researchers, identical areas of the brain were activated whether the participants were recalling or imagining. 

As Jessica Marshall wrote in the March 24, 2007 issue of New Scientist, not only is our personal past and future tightly ‘linked’ in the brain, but both are handled by a ‘universal module for mental time travel.’ Even more fascinating, when the brain is not focused on anything in particular, researchers have discovered that the very same mental time-travel ‘network’ is still operating.  

Although scientists, as yet, don’t truly understand the ramifications of these findings, they pose many interesting questions regarding time and our relationship with it. 

Back to the future

If the brain is simply an antenna and transducer of quantum information, it doesn’t distinguish between past and future. This may also mean that imagination and recall can be interchanged and used, in a sense, to ‘fix’ those past events that are still unsettling you. As couples in relationships, you may also use your joint memories and imaginations to settle an old disagreement. 

Your imagination may possibly be able to ‘hardwire’ your memory to change what actually occurred in the past. 
Certainly, this research offers more evidence that our present is constantly being affected by our future. To the brain, there’s no difference between past and future; both are a nebulous ‘not now’. 

If identical portions of the brain are activated when you recall your own past or imagine your future, our imagination may be a constructive means to ‘time travel’ with our loved ones to sort out past areas of conflict. 

If you and a parent, say, have unresolved conflicts from your childhood, go back to a really difficult moment. Imagine the same event in the future, with you and the parent as you are now, but ending up harmoniously. See if this alters your current relationship.{jcomments on}

Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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