I have anecdotal evidence from multiple massage therapists claiming that they have triggered some form of mental / emotional response in a patient, due to physical stimulation (one case citing a sudden outburst of crying).

I understand there may be at least two reasons for this:

  • Actual memory stored in cells (see Body Memory)

  • Something more like Synesthesia: In this case physical stimulation linking memories in the brain that are otherwise repressed or inaccessible.

It seems there is just about 0 credible evidence to support the first cause, but I am curious what scientific approaches have managed to explain it away in regards to the second. So more specifically:

What evidence and/or theories do we have in place that surround the claim that tactile stimulation can trigger memory, notably that of the inaccessible or repressed kind?

P.S. I especially wanted to ask this due to a highly voted skeptics post questioning the effectiveness of acupuncture. (Thanks to Legend of Korra for the theory). If acupuncture is a proven method to invoke lost memories, perhaps it is more useful than a "particularly effective placebo" as is currently claimed in the highest voted answer there.

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    $\begingroup$ What do you mean exactly by "stimulation outside the brain"? Massage will trigger brain activity in people with a (functioning) brain... It seems a no brainer. Conversely, nobody gets a brain massage (voluntarily). $\endgroup$ – Fizz Nov 12 '17 at 19:39
  • $\begingroup$ Point taken. In attempts to leave the question somewhat broad I somewhat stated the obvious i.e. obviously watching a video from your childhood will trigger a memory. Will edit to read more like "tactile stimulus inducing memory", although I hope the context surrounding the question made this somewhat clear in the interim. Thanks for the clarification, and addressing the issue with my (partially) functioning brain*. *Obligatory brain joke $\endgroup$ – Jared G Nov 13 '17 at 15:33
  • $\begingroup$ I probably don't have a well developed answer for you, but I'll point out that the source of your affective feelings is your body, so if you stimulate your body, it can change your affective feelings (including crying). Changes in afferent input from your body (e.g., tactile stimulation) to your brain can lead the brain to attend to certain thoughts, sensations, memories, in an affect-congruent way. $\endgroup$ – mrt Nov 14 '17 at 7:10

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