Sunday, May 8, 2022

What Part Of The Brain Is The Amygdala In

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Anger And The Brain: What Happens In Your Head When You Get Angry

The Amygdala in 5 Minutes | Big Think

I think understanding information on the brain is essential in laying a foundation for anger management. Your brain is the center of your logic and emotions. By understanding how your body works, you can make better sense over why you think and feel what you do when angry.

Scientists have identified a specific region of the brain called the amygdala, as the part of the brain that processes fear, triggers anger, and motivates us to act. It alerts us to danger and activates the fight or flight response. Researchers have also found that the prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain that controls reasoning, judgment and helps us think logically before we act.

Stereotypically, women are thought of as emotional and men as logical, but biology reveals this as false. Curiously, the inverse in true. Scientists have discovered that men have a larger part of their brain devoted to emotional responses and a smaller region for logical thinking than women. This makes sense if you consider the energy needed to be vigilant for self-protection. Men are hard wired for hunting, competition and dominance. Their powerful emotional outbursts of anger, when seen through the hunter gatherer lens, are helpful to come out on top during a confrontation.

This means even vague similarities can triggers fear signals in the brain, alerting you of a threat. This false alarm happens because the goal is to survive, there is an advantage to react first and think later.

Limbic System And Hippocampus Function And Structure

The limbic system sits atop the brain stem, which is believed to be one of the first parts of the brain to develop, react to stimuli and the most basic in terms of sustaining life. Its located on both sides of the thalamus and underneath the cerebrum.

Theres not total consensus among neuroscientists about which structures of the brain are technically part of the limbic system, considering its very hard to to neatly classify cortical areas given how much neural overlap there is. That being said, most consider the limbic system to be made up of cortical regions , including:

  • Hippocampus: generally associated with memory and focus, but also helps with motor control
  • Amygdala: tied to fear and anxious emotions
  • Hypothalamus: primarily responsible for regulating hormones and maintaining homeostasis
  • tied to pleasure and learning through reward and/or reinforcement
  • Cingulate Cortex: involved in many aspects of memory and emotion
  • Parahippocampal Gyrus: also helps with memory
  • Mammillary Bodies: connected to the amygdala and hippocampus
  • Fornix: connects other parts of the brain, including hippocampus and mammillary bodies

The limbic system is one hard-working region of the brain, as you can tell. Some specific limbic system functions include:

  • Controlling emotions like anger and fear
  • Controlling aggressive or violent behavior
  • Responding to sensory information, especially sense of smell

Beyond Emotion: Understanding The Amygdalas Role In Memory

Illustration of the basolateral amygdala , hippocampus , and perirhinal cortex and electrical signals from each region during a recognition test trial. 3-D brain model adapted with permission from AMC Virtual Brain Model. Image courtesy of Cory Inman, Emory University

The amygdalae, a pair of small almond-shaped regions deep in the brain, help regulate emotion and encode memoriesespecially when it comes to more emotional remembrances. Now, new research from Emory University suggests that direct stimulation of the amygdala via deep brain stimulation electrodes can enhance a persons recognition of images seen the day before, leading to the possibility of potential DBS treatment for patients with memory-related disorders.

The amygdala and memory

The amygdala may be best known as the part of the brain that drives the so-called fight or flight response. While it is often associated with the bodys fear and stress responses, it also plays a pivotal role in memory.

One role we are very familiar with, when it comes to the amygdala and memory, is that of emotional salience, says Jon T. Willie, M.D., Ph.D., neurosurgeon and director of the laboratory for behavioral neuromodulation at Emory University in Atlanta. If you have an emotional experience, the amygdala seems to tag that memory in such a way so that it is better remembered.

Stimulating memory, but not emotion

Challenges of DBS as a treatment

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What Is The Hippocampus

The hippocampus is located in the internal zone of the temporal lobe of the brain and according to the anatomy it is related to the hypothalamus and the amygdala, therefore they work together in the composition of the limbic system.

The hippocampal formation is a curved and recurve sheet of cortex, located on the medial surface of the temporal lobe.

Cross sections show that the hippocampal formation is made up of three distinct areas: the dentate gyrus, the hippocampus, and the subiculum.

In these types of sections, the dentate gyrus and hippocampus are shaped like two interlocking Cs. The subiculum is a transition zone that continues with the hippocampus at one end and the parahippocampal cortex at the other.

The three components are organized as anterior to posterior bands within the temporal lobe, which together form a cylinder.

The hippocampus is an important part of the brain since, thanks to research, we know that it has functions related to declarative, non-declarative and long-term memory and to maintain memories depending on what the person experiences emotionally at the moment it is created, what which indicates that it is related to the ability to learn.

Likewise, it is a brain structure capable of intervening in spatial visual processes, which is why it is considered a necessary area to remember, locate ourselves in space and memorize.

Why Am I So Emotional

Know Your Brain: Amygdala  Neuroscientifically Challenged

The emotional brain is the oldest, most primitive part of our brain, which was only ever designed to ensure physical survival. Why? Because in early times, it was only about physical survival. You were a good ol fashioned caveman in a jungle and your only call to action was to watch out for snakes, bears, foxes and other cavemen fighting for your meat and fruit. You needed a kind of brain that is quick, hyper-vigilant and out of consciousness, because consciousness would have been capable of wiping you off the face of the earth.

Ohhhh.I seethis is indeed a snake..hmmmlet me thinkwhat should I do? It appears that I need a sophisticated plan to handle thisOh, and by the way, Im speaking from my grave.

You needed a visceral and autonomous brain for physical survival. And nature gave it to you. This is your emotional brain.

Can you see why our innate, basic emotions like fear are so automatic?

Over the course of evolution, the emotional brain wasnt really replaced. Thank goodness! Even today, I really need it to be quick and automatic if I run into that snake again. Or an axe murderer. Or a falling tree branch. Or my mother-in-law.

Our emotional brain wasnt replaced, but nature somehow figured that in this new, modern world, your needs are different. You no longer need to fight so much for physical survival, but more for social and psychological survival.

Now geared with this understanding, lets come back to the amygdala.

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Midbrain And Hindbrain Structures

The midbrain is comprised of structures located deep within the brain, between the forebrain and the hindbrain. The reticular formation is centered in the midbrain, but it actually extends up into the forebrain and down into the hindbrain. The reticular formation is important in regulating the sleep/wake cycle, arousal, alertness, and motor activity.

The substantia nigra and the ventral tegmental area are also located in the midbrain . Both regions contain cell bodies that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine, and both are critical for movement. Degeneration of the substantia nigra and VTA is involved in Parkinsons disease. In addition, these structures are involved in mood, reward, and addiction .

Figure 3. The substantia nigra and ventral tegmental area are located in the midbrain.

The hindbrain is located at the back of the head and looks like an extension of the spinal cord. It contains the medulla, pons, and cerebellum . The medulla controls the automatic processes of the autonomic nervous system, such as breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate. The word pons literally means bridge, and as the name suggests, the pons serves to connect the brain and spinal cord. It also is involved in regulating brain activity during sleep. The medulla, pons, and midbrain together are known as the brainstem.

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Where Are The Hippocampus And Amygdala Located

The hippocampus and the amygdala are located in the temporal lobe.

To locate the temporal lobe we must visualize that area contained at the level of the ears. It is separated from the parietal lobe by the Silvio fissure and is for many biologists one of the newest parts of the brain in fact, it only appears in vertebrates.

Likewise and like all other regions of the brain, it is not an anatomically isolated structure. It works in conjunction with the other regions of the brain but, yes, we could say that it is a very dynamic, sensitive structure in constant interaction with the senses and our environment.

In fact, and this data is interesting, we are dealing with the brain lobe that has the most connections with the limbic system. Therefore, it has a great responsibility in a large number of processes related to our emotions and memory. That is why there are two fundamental structures here: the amygdala and the hippocampus.

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What Happens When Stress Lasts A Long Time

Stress comes in many different forms. The example we have used throughout this article is encountering a bear. Seeing a bear is typically a short-term stressor, because you would probably get out of that stressful situation quickly. Feeling stressed is normal and good for detecting danger in the environment. But for some people, stress becomes a normal part of life. Imagine if you were bullied at school. Going to school every day might become scary or stressful. Short-term stress causes short bursts of a lot of cortisol. If the HPA axis is activated continuously, as with long-term stress, the stressresponse system will change to try and deal with long-term stress . The stressresponse system changes by making less cortisol since there is so much in the body. This causes an imbalance of cortisol and poor functioning of the stressresponse system.

The Amygdala Emotions And Feelings


In order to understand the role of the amygdala, we must first define the emotion. The term emotion is different from the term feeling, although they are often used as synonyms.

Emotion is an unconscious, automatic reaction to the stimuli including somatic and cognitive changes .

Feeling, on the other hand, is a conscious representation of those emotions, such as feeling scared. Emotions are the result of the activities of the subcortical structures , and cerebral sensations.

Therefore, we conclude that the amygdala plays a very important role in our emotions. Most noteworthy, it is related to fear. There is a strong connection between the amygdala and fear conditioning.

That being said, fear conditioning is an important function of the amygdala. Scientists commonly use Pavlovian conditioning in the study of ‘learning to fear’. The essence of conditioning is associating a conditioned stimulus with a non-conditioned stimulus . For example, an animal can receive an electric shock after the sound signal is applied.

The non-conditioned stimulus is a biologically potent stimulus that, in itself, triggers an emotional response, such as freezing. The conditioned stimulus is emotionally neutral and does not in itself elicit a response.

After pairing these by repeating several series of beeps followed by an electric shock, the appearance of the neutral stimulus itself triggers a similar emotional response .

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The Amygdala Cognition And Social Behaviour

Emotions influence cognitive processes such as attention, memory formation, and decision making, and they play a prominent role in social behaviour. A large body of literature supports a role for the amygdala in those functions, presumably by virtue of amygdalar projections to the prefrontal and sensory cortices, to the hippocampus and rhinal cortices, and to subcortical neuromodulatory systems. For example, patients with isolated lesions of the amygdala resulting from Urbach-Wiethe disease can exhibit a deficit in identifying fearful facial expressions. That deficit appears to be due to difficulties in directing attention to the eyes of others, which is important for discerning fear. Consistent with that observation, amygdala neural activity can reflect the emotional significance and location of visual stimuli. Substantial work also implicates a role for the basolateral amygdala in modulating the formation of memories in relation to emotional events. In addition, human neuroimaging studies suggest a role for the amygdala in mediating the so-called framing effect during economic choices, which is thought to reflect the effect of positive or negative emotion on decision making.

What Happens When The Amygdala Is Damaged

There is a reduction of fear and aggression in the person if the amygdala gets damaged. However, there is also something more to it. Bilateral lesion of amygdala also causes the affected person to have an impaired ability to interpret emotional aspect of facial expression. A damage to the amygdala is linked to autism.

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What Causes Damage To The Amygdala

Structural or functional changes in the amygdala are associated with a wide variety of psychiatric conditions such as various anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder , phobia, panic disorders, depression, schizophrenia, and autism. People with bilateral destruction of the amygdala exhibit symptoms of a condition termed as KluverBucy syndrome. Amygdalotomy has also been associated with impairment of the ability to remember faces and interpret facial expressions.

Development And Sex Distinction

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The amygdala is one of the best-understood brain regions with regard to differences between the sexes. The amygdala is larger in males than females in children aged 7 to 11, adult humans, and adult rats.

There is considerable growth within the first few years of structural development in both male and female amygdalae. Within this early period, female limbic structures grow at a more rapid pace than the male ones. Amongst female subjects, the amygdala reaches its full growth potential approximately 1.5 years before the peak of male development. The structural development of the male amygdala occurs over a longer period than in women. Despite the early development of female amygdalae, they reach their growth potential sooner than males, whose amygdalae continue to develop. The larger relative size of the male amygdala may be attributed to this extended developmental period.

A simple view of the information processing through the amygdala follows as: the amygdala sends projections to the hypothalamus, the dorsomedial thalamus, the thalamic reticular nucleus, the nuclei of the trigeminal nerve and the facial nerve, the ventral tegmental area, the locus coeruleus, and the laterodorsal tegmental nucleus. The basolateral amygdala projects to the nucleus accumbens, including the medial shell.

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Conflict Of Interest Statement

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.


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Gee, D. G., Gabard-Durnam, L., Telzer, E. H., Humphreys, K. L., Goff, B., Shapiro, M., et al. 2014. Maternal buffering of human amygdala-prefrontal circuitry during childhood but not during adolescence. Psychol. Sci. 25:206778. doi:10.1177/0956797614550878

Guassi Moreira, J. F., and Telzer, E. H. 2016. Mother still knows best: maternal influence uniquely modulated adolescent reward sensitivity during risk taking. Dev. Sci. 111. doi:10.1111/desc.12484

Gee, D. G., Gabard-Durnam, L. J., Flannery, J., Goff, B., Humphreys, K. L., Telzer, E. H., et al. 2013. Early developmental emergence of human amygdalaprefrontal connectivity after maternal deprivation. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 110:1563843. doi:10.1073/pnas.1307893110

Role In Emotional Behavior And Learning And Memory

The amygdala plays an essential role in the regulation of emotional responses and species-specific behaviors. The integration of multimodal external and internal stimuli allows the amygdala to fulfill these multiple functions. In functional studies, only 47% of amygdalar neurons respond to different types of unimodal stimuli , but this changes rapidly when more complex stimuli are presented. The amygdala engages heavily when individuals are exposed to food to stimuli that are novel or have cognitive significance to faces, especially if they are loaded with emotions or to rewarding or punishing reinforcers. Imaging studies further documented lateralization of amygdalar activity in humans and amygdalar involvement in declarative learning and sound processing including tinnitus. Species differences in amygdalar chemoarchitecture were shown for the expression of peptides and transmitter receptors, but their impact on behavior is less clear.

JOSE S. DE OLMOS, in, 2004

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Have You Been Silly To Pick Up These Distorted Thinking Styles

Just like the amygdala is unconscious, cognitive distortions too are picked up unconsciously. Usually in childhood. Strange no? Isn’t the rational mind supposed to be smart enough to be..well..rational?

Sorry, but rationality too is developed. It doesn’t just show up in your life all of a sudden. It is developed in your formative years based on what you see, and how you’re getting trained to see the world, including yourself.

Again, you’re not aware of your unconscious learning. It’s just something that happens. Your rational mind iS unconsciously being developed by a whole lot of what is going on around you.

Maybe you’re still unsure or unaware that you respond to life distortedly. Maybe you don’t see them as distorted. “Perfectionism is distorted? Get outta here!” Maybe you don’t know alternatives.

All in all, for one reason or another, you keep them. And these guys are the whole deal. The make or break deal. The ones which get to decide whether you move on or go down.

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