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Proximity to Site Fosters 'Flashbulb' Memory of 9/11

Study of New Yorkers shows more vivid memories in those nearest the World Trade Center on 9/11

THURSDAY, Dec. 21 (HealthDay News) -- New Yorkers who were closest to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 are more likely to have vivid "flashbulb" memories of the terrorist attack than New Yorkers who were further away, according to a study published online Dec. 20 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In 2004, Tali Sharot, Ph.D., of New York University in New York City, and colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan 24 New Yorkers who recalled memories from 9/11 and other personal control events from the summer of 2001. After the scanning session, the subjects were asked to rate their memories for vividness, detail, confidence in accuracy, arousal and valence.

The researchers found that only half of the subjects had more vivid, confident and detailed memories of 9/11 than of the personal control events, and that these subjects were closer to the World Trade Center. During the fMRI scans, the investigators also found that subjects who were close to the World Trade Center had increased amygdala activity while retrieving 9/11 memories.

"These results suggest that close personal experience may be critical in engaging the neural mechanisms that underlie the emotional modulation of memory and thus in producing the vivid recollections to which the term 'flashbulb memory' is often applied," the authors conclude.

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