Monday, April 12, 2010

Does Time Really Slow Down during a Frightening Event?

I have heard that people generally feel that everything moves in slow motion when they get into an accident. One of my friends also have told me that he watched that the window was breaking very slowly, while his car was turned over by an accident.In the past, some people believed that this happens due to the movement of our brain and eyes; in case of being frightened, our brain and eyes move rapidly as a 'high speed camera,' so that they could capture every scenes they are seeing, even in a very short time. In 2007, Professor Eagleman from Baylor College of Medicine experimented whether people could actually recognize every objects in slow motion. This study brought a reverse result against that belief.

In Eagleman's experiment, in order to reproduce those extreme fear of car accidents, the volunteers took a free fall ride, which went up to 150-foot tall tower and reached speeds of 70 miles per hour. He tested if the volunteers could read numbers from an LED device on their wrists while riding a ride. However, no one could recognize numbers in this study.
As a result, Professor Eagleman states that the distortion of memory may lead to this phenomenon; the brain rather recollect the memory in slow motion. He also explains that this is a 'flashbulb memory,' since it makes people to remember the moments of accidents vividly and movements in slow motion. For example, our brain usually save memories in hippocampus; however, in extremely frightened situation, another part in our brain called amygdala also begins to record emotions. Therefore, the frightened memory, which remembers both situations and emotions, is much stronger than any other ordinary memories.

I think this is very related to most people; they might had this kind of experiences or heard from other people many times or at least once in their lives. In my case, I have never experienced this but heard so many times from my friends or neighbors. Every time I heard the story about this kind of phenomenon, I was curious how slow motioned movement could really happen. Therefore, I was very interested in this research article by just reading the title. Also, it was much interesting because this is related to the 'flashbulb memory' and the distortion of memory.

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