Trauma and Disorders of Memory

W. Jake Jacobs, Sacha D. Brown, Lynn Nadel

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


This chapter describes conditions under which people remember traumatic events: most quite clearly, some barely at all, while a minority remembers such events pathologically well. The account outlined here is based on the central premise that acute and chronic stressors, acting through the sympathetic-adrenal-medullary (SAM) and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) systems, modulate brain systems to change the ways in which experience is transduced, distributed, stored, retrieved and integrated, reaggregated, and used. We start with a discussion of contextualized remembering, separating the concept of context into two distinct entities: settings and situations. We argue that a person's perception of setting and situation is filtered through individual differences reflecting genetic predispositions (traits), acquired characteristics (habits), and acute motivational states. We then outline remembering under normal circumstances. We then disambiguate the concepts of fear, stress, and trauma. Fear, we claim, is a state triggered through extant traits, states, and acquired characteristics mediated through the SAM axis. Once triggered, fear can bleed into stress, mediated through the HPA axis, which, under specific circumstances, bleeds into trauma. We discuss the neural bases of settings, situations, fear, and stress and discuss the representational structures the brain generates under both normal and stressful conditions. These considerations offer a way of understanding the nature of memory for trauma and suggest a resolution of recent debates in the trauma memory literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationLearning and Memory
Subtitle of host publicationA Comprehensive Reference
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)9780128052914
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Amygdala
  • Context
  • Fear
  • HPA axis
  • Hippocampus
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Stress
  • Traumatic memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine
  • General Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Trauma and Disorders of Memory'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this