Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Negative Thoughts
25 September 2014

Negative Thoughts

If you always surrounded yourself with ‘yes men’, making decisions would be impossible. Sometimes you need a pessimistic voice to filter out bad ideas and concretise the good ones. Brains are no different. Groups of neurons [nerve cells] which form memories in the hypothalamus – our memory centre – are coupled with negative cells (pictured) that say ‘no’ to certain incoming nerve signals. Together they strengthen the pathways along which the strongest impulses run, and silence the weaker ones, ensuring that only the most salient information is encoded in the memory bank. Such teamwork relies on a flexible relationship between the two types of cells. Research suggests the interaction is regulated by special protein channels on the cells' membranes that affect the impact the negative neurons have on their partners. If only getting rid of unhelpful voices was as simple in our daily life...

Written by Jan Piotrowski

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