Exploring Cellular Memory

Medically reviewed by Dr. April Brewer, DBH, LPC
Updated April 25, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Sometimes, people with strong memory abilities take it for granted. This might be because good memory can be genetic, as shown in various research and articles.

While you can improve your memory with targeted exercises and training, your body's cells also contain their own type of cellular memory. In this article, we'll address how individual cells, such as skin and brain cells, have the capacity to maintain and create memories through gene expression and cellular memories. 

This fascinating aspect of biology is being studied at university labs, with researchers exploring the form and function of cellular memory and how it might be passed on or utilized in future technology.

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We are, each of us, made up of around 20,000-25,000 genes that can determine everything from our appearance to our behavior.

Our genetics are responsible for a large part of who we are, a mixture of billions of cells constantly being created, destroyed, split, and replicated. Every cell, in a way, knows its job and how to do it instinctively, which can be a bit like a memory.

We may not be conscious of this cellular process, and it has nothing to do with whether you'll remember everything on your grocery list. However, because our cell's roles have been passed down genetically through gene interactions, this can be considered a form of memory. Some even theorize that our ancestors' memories are in some ways contained within ourselves, although there is no scientific evidence to account for this. It is also speculated that community memories, particularly traumatic ones, can be stored at the cellular level and passed on to others. On another page, it is also worth considering how cellular memories can influence the healing of a wound or adapt to various forms as intended by their genetic programming. In terms of research, much more is needed in this area.

Physical cellular memory

DNA itself can be broken into tiny fragments that hold mental, physical, and cellular “blueprints.” Our cells can constantly update with information as we go through life, and this can change our DNA or simply be absorbed as part of our genetic heritage to program into our offspring. 

Our cells are constantly replicating according to the “instructions” in DNA. These cells still repeat their process over and over even when the cells are new, which can be considered, according to this theory, as some form of body memory.

Why does cellular memory matter?

What causes deja vu? Some believe that the feeling of déjà vu comes from memories of past lives carried in your cellular memory, although there is no scientific evidence to support this theory.

Despite the clear lack of evidence, this philosophical theory can be interesting to entertain.

While it’s all understood that your cells have a certain amount of DNA “memory” linked to their function and your genetic survival, some people also believe there is a second function to that memory, one that is related to karmic debt from those past lives. For example, some people believe that your phobias in your current life may be related to how you died in a past life. Recurring dreams, déjà vu, and emotional issues could be signs that your cellular memory has some energy remaining from past lives that have not been resolved, according to this philosophical theory. There are also some people who believe a large mole, birthmark, or odd indentation or discoloration of the skin could signify a wound from a past life.

While all of this is currently unprovable by science, an interesting phenomenon that may show this connection comes from transplant patients. Patients who have received transplanted cells and organs can take on traits from their donors. They may see changes in their personalities or hobbies, and perhaps feel emotions that connect to the donor rather than themselves. The cellular memory of the donor cells is different from the host, and this could account for the reprogramming or confusion caused by the transplant.


Past life therapy

Past life therapies start by trying to get cellular memories. According to the purely theoretical idea of past lives, what “you” experience in a past life could influence your feelings and experiences today. According to this spiritual theory, by using past life therapy, we may deepen the conscious connection we have to our identities in other lives. 

How does past life therapy work?

Past life therapy is similar to hypnosis or meditation. The idea is that by adjusting your level of consciousness, you can “tap in” to that cellular memory, even if it’s only for a brief time.

Note that there is currently no clinical research that shows that past-life therapy can help mental health conditions. For scientifically proven help, please reach out to a licensed therapist. Foregoing necessary treatment for mental health difficulties can be life-threatening.

If you do decide to attend a past life therapy session, you may start the process with a guide putting you into a relaxed state and then asking you about your feelings or any images that come up, then exploring those. The issue here is that you may be guided and prodded to provide the information, and it’s likely that you’ll simply “create” memories just for efficacy’s sake. Nothing is proving or disproving these “memories” as real, and your subconscious may simply be constructing them because you’re being asked to.

While there is no legitimate scientific backing for the idea of past life regression, meditative experiences like these ones and spiritual theories can be interesting and fun ways to explore our own minds, imaginations, and thought processes. Please note that past life regression therapy cannot replace true, proven mental health counseling and therapy.

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
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The theory of cellular memory suggests that memories may be stored at a cellular level in individual cells outside of the brain. It is further hypothesized that traumatic memories based on past events might be stored in the body at the cellular level. 

Do you want to learn more about where your thoughts, memories, and pain may be coming from? Talking to a certified counselor may help as you search to understand yourself better. 

With online therapy, you can choose between many qualified professionals until you find someone who works for you. For example, if you want a counselor who is open to talking about past lives and spiritual theories, then you can mention that in your sessions and match up with a good fit for you. 

Be wary of people who charge you for past life regressions, as these treatments are not officially recognized by any significant health organizations as possessing the ability to treat mental health concerns. CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy, on the other hand, has been found by many studies to make a difference in the symptoms of conditions like depression, anxiety, phobias, and more. 

You deserve help from a qualified professional. Reach out to BetterHelp to learn about the many options you have for mental health counseling and care.

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