Often times when we discuss injuries we have sustained, indelible memories of vivid childhood accidents will rush to the surface of our thoughts perhaps even causing minor physical discomfort in the body part related to the accident. For some of us, when certain graphic images of wounds are shown, we will begin to experience a tingling sensation in those areas of our own bodies. For others, remembering how they broke a bone can seem anticlimactic. So from these observations, the question arises: why do we each remember pain the way that we do?
In an article regarding mothers’ progressive memory of childbirth, the renowned online mental health resource Psych Central disclosed their groundbreaking research, which suggested a strong correlation between memory of childbirth and how many children these women ultimately had. About 50% of the mothers rated their childbirth as less painful than they did initially. While this data fails to suggest that the majority of women forget the intensity of their labor pains, it shows that a significant amount do. A potential explanation for this habit is that there is a positive correlation between being able to forget the pains of childbirth, and how many children one of the subjects had. This implies that being able to forget specific pains can be useful if the potential gain is more worthwhile than temporary pain.
However, on the other end of the spectrum, remembering pain can be used to prevent the acquisition of future injuries in the same way. Discovery Magazine released an article about how memories are linked with pain through a protein called PKMzeta. It goes into the synapses between neurons, and strengthens bonds. This creates more connections for vivid memories to arise. The PKMzeta protein forms new connections in the spine after painful experiences, the same way it does when we are forming new memories. Thusly, our pain is a sign of new knowledge.