The experience of nostalgia, which feels good, doesn’t always lead to making good decisions. So, how does nostalgia permeate the brain? And what exactly does it do our decision-making?
Exposure to conditions inspiring nostalgic feelings activate part of the brain associated with three things; memory, emotion, and reward. The amygdala, known to modulate emotional responses, works in tandem with the hippocampus, responsible for memory, to activate parts of the brain linked to reward like the ventral striatum and the substantia nigra, among other regions.
Positive emotions have been linked to stronger detail oriented memories but research also suggests that memories deteriorate over time, and both positive and negative emotions can have an effect on how we remember incidents.
A 2015 study cited the positive effects of nostalgia as a “stabilizing force” allowing us to push forward with a sense of personal continuity; a wonderful way to track our own growth over time through anecdotes. But while we use information from our past to dictate our futures, it’s important not to let nostalgia cloud that future.