Sequelae, norepinephrine, epinephrine: Christine Blasey Ford uses science to describe her assault


Palo Alto University professor Christine Blasey Ford, who is accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers in the 1980s, has used her knowledge of science and psychology to describe her experience and the impacts it’s had on her life — a tactic that helped build her credibility as a witness at Thursday’s Senate hearing in Washington, D.C.

Ford, 51, holds a doctorate’s degree in psychology and teaches psychology at the doctoral level in California. She first used science to describe how she was certain that Kavanaugh was the boy who sexually assaulted her.

“How are you so sure that it was he?” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked Ford at the hearing.

“The same way that I’m sure that I’m talking to you right now,” Ford replied. “Just basic memory functions, also just the level of norepinephrine and epinephrine in the brain that sort of, as you know, encodes that neurotransmitter, encodes memories into the hippocampus so the trauma-related experience then is kind of locked there, whereas other details kind of drift.”

In a later instance at the hearing, Ford was asked what she remembered most about the alleged assault, in which she used brain function to again describe her memory.

“Indelible into the hippocampus is the laughter — the uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense,” Ford said.

Ford also referred to the “sequelae” of the attack, which is defined as “abnormal conditions resulting from a previous disease.”

Some experts say Ford’s use of scientific brain function has helped lend to her credibility.

“In 10 years prosecuting all sorts of cases, from mafia to murder to white collar, I NEVER had a more credible witness than Dr. Ford,” Daniel S. Goldman, an NBC News legal analyst and fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, tweeted. “And certainly never had one who could explain the science behind memory to explain how she remembers the details!”