Sometimes the more you try to forget something, the more it sticks in your head. But researchers at Stanford University and the University of Oregon found out that your brain can actually be trained to forget. It's not that useful of a trick when you're trying to find your car keys, but it goes a long way to help psychiatrists deal with patients that have been scarred by traumatic experiences.
The study used MRI scans to measure the brain activity of a group of volunteers. The volunteers were asked to learn a group of words that had been paired together--word combinations like steam and train or jaw and gum. Then they were given just the first word and told to either remember or suppress the second word. What was pretty amazing was that later on, when they asked the volunteers to remember the word pairs, they had trouble remembering the ones they were told to suppress.
When the researchers studied the brain scans they found that when people suppressed memories, their scans looked very similar to scans of someone that had just set out to do something physically challenging and backed off. Like starting to jump off a high dive and then pulling back at the last second. Basically your brain takes the memory and pulls it back from the front of your mind to somewhere it can be suppressed.
The researchers will keep studying this in the hopes of helping people who are plagued by traumatic memories. We'll keep you posted.