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T.Three days after Jenna Tokatrian watched Taylor Swift perform at Gillette Stadium in Massachusetts, it was still cloudy. But when she tried to relive her memories, something felt strange. In her mind, vivid details of the concert should have been playing on loop, but there was just a blank space.
“Post-concert amnesia is real,” says Tokatrian, a 25-year-old New Yorker. She got to hear her top pick for one of Swift’s “surprise songs” of the night:better man— and the experience still feels surreal. “If it wasn’t for the five-minute video that her friend kindly took of me jamming, I probably would have told everyone it wouldn’t have happened,” she says. During her hour-long wait to leave the stadium, she began re-listening to the setlist and asked her friend: How long has she played? Ms. Tokatrian says it was due to her sensory overload. And there’s also the fact that she’d been dreaming about that big night for so long, it was hard to grasp that it was really happening. “It’s hard to summarize what you’ve actually seen,” she says. “While your favorite song is playing, you’re going through a lot of emotions and you’re like, ‘Wow, where am I?'”
Every weekend from March through August, hundreds of thousands of people flock to stadiums across the United States to watch Swift’s wildly popular three-hour Eras Tour. Since then, many people have complained on social media platforms like Reddit that they can’t remember details or even most of the show. someone wrote They had been waiting for the concert for six months, and after the concert was over, their brains tried to trick them into thinking they weren’t there.Another wondered if they had dissociated duringsaid he feels guilty for not leaving with more vivid memories.
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Nicole Boose, 32, of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, who attended Swift’s show in Philadelphia on May 14, echoes this sentiment. Looking back, she says it was her “out-of-body experience, as if it hadn’t happened to her.” “Still, I know it did because it cost my bank account $950 to cover the ticket.”
what happened? For starters, people may simply be overexcited, explains Ewan McNay, associate professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Albany. “This isn’t just a concert phenomenon; it can happen anytime you’re in a very emotional state,” he says. For example, people getting married often say they can’t remember their first dance or if her Aunt Josephine was there. When the body’s stress levels rise, memory-related neurons begin to fire indiscriminately in response to stimulating or distressing factors. This makes it “very difficult” to form new memories. “Being a little nervous and a little excited can actually improve your memory,” says McNay. “But if you get too excited, you’ll push the limits of memory formation and you won’t be able to create memories.”
There are scientific and biological explanations for exactly what happens when you get this excited (which your body sees as a state of stress). It starts pumping glucose, the brain’s favorite molecule, out of the liver and into the bloodstream to facilitate memory, thinking and learning. For example, imagine you encounter a bear in the woods. “As muscle energy, you need energy to fight a bear or run away from a bear,” says McNay, and don’t waste it on memory formation or anything like that. At the same time, the vagus nerve, which regulates the function of internal organs, is stimulated. “You’re saying, ‘Hey, we’re really stressed. We’re running from bears or watching Taylor Swift.'”
This response causes the amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for processing emotions) to release a neurotransmitter called noradrenaline. It helps tag memories as having a lot of emotional content, increasing the chances that the memory will be vividly stored in your mind. But McNay describes the process as an inverted U. Too much is not good, he says. What’s more, adding caffeine or alcohol to it will likely tilt the curve further to the right, meaning your brain will have a harder time creating and storing new memories.
read more: How stress is actually good for you
It’s surprising that we don’t remember all the things we think we should remember about big events, said Robert Kraft, a professor of cognitive psychology at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. Say it’s unfortunate. “We paid a lot of money for it. “But our expectations are too high. It’s not a memory, it’s not a recording device.”
One of the core misconceptions many people have about memory is that they see forgetting as a defect, he says. In reality, we are not designed to remember everything. Situations where we focus on explicit memorization are usually limited to things like studying for exams or memorizing presentations. “We don’t set out to remember our lives, we set out to experience them,” says Kraft. “Not remembering is actually a tribute to being in the moment and enjoying it.”
Still, if you have a strong desire to remember important events better, some strategies can help. The first is a purely spiritual approach, says McNay. Perhaps you can try to achieve a “semi-meditative state” by telling yourself to relax and be present. Alternatively, consider a more physical approach. The brain monitors your body to figure out what emotional state you’re in, he explains. Running away from a bear or yelling at a concert tells the bear that you must be scared. On the other hand, standing still in a relaxed state sends a message to your brain that you don’t need to get too excited. It helps promote memory formation.
Kraft, on the other hand, prefers to take the pressure out of the equation and just focus on having a good time. He’s a Swift fan, but like many of us, he couldn’t secure tickets to the Ellas Tour. If you are in the same position, don’t worry. “Unfortunately neither of us are going,” he says. “But either way, we would have forgotten it.”
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